Wednesday, 22 January 2020 08:47

Fulfilling A Veteran’s Years-Long Wish

By Congresswoman Elise Stefanik | News
Fulfilling A Veteran’s Years-Long Wish

I have the honor of representing more veterans in my district than any other district in New York State. With this honor comes a huge responsibility. Whether it is introducing and supporting legislation that will protect and serve them, or helping them resolve issues through veterans-focused casework – I am always looking for opportunities to serve our veterans and make a difference in their lives, as they have made an incalculable difference in each of our lives. 

I want to share a truly heartwarming story with you that I was lucky enough to play a small part in.  Mr. Henry “Chief” Bates Jr. is a 92-year-old World War II Veteran and former longtime Fire Chief in Cambridge, NY. Henry had been trying for three years to obtain a headstone for his friend Mr. Leo Vuori, who was also a World War II Veteran. Leo passed away after returning from the war and was buried in an unmarked grave in Woodlands Cemetery in Cambridge.

Leo has no relatives that Henry could find, and when he found out Leo was buried in an unmarked grave, he was deeply upset. Henry and Leo had been friends since their high school days in Cambridge, and Henry rightfully felt his friend’s legacy as a soldier and friend was not being properly honored in an unmarked grave. 

Henry’s son, Timothy Bates, reached out to my office in January of this year asking for help in obtaining a headstone for his father’s friend. After three whole years of working their way through the system, they were discouraged and pessimistic that they would ever be able to honor Leo’s life. We immediately sent a Congressional Inquiry to the National Cemetery Administration (NCA) and asked them to review and expedite the application for a headstone. NCA requested further information, so my office worked with the Washington County VSA, the Village Clerk of Cambridge, the Superintendent of Woodlands Cemetery, and Henry and Timothy to obtain all the relevant details needed. 

My office resubmitted the completed application to NCA on February 14, 2019. Just six days later, on February 20, we were notified that the application had been approved and the upright marble headstone for Leo would be delivered to Woodlands Cemetery within 45-60 days. After many long years, World War II Veteran Leo Vuori will finally receive the proper and long-overdue recognition that he deserves. 

A 92-year-old World War II Veteran should not have to spend his time working through bureaucracy for three years just to get his fellow veteran and friend a proper gravesite. I was honored that Mr. Henry Bates Jr. and his son reached out to my office and gave us the opportunity to help him fulfill a long-time wish to honor his friend. Speaking to Henry on the phone to notify him that we had secured a headstone for Leo was a powerful moment for the both of us. I am incredibly blessed to have a job that allows me to help veterans and change their lives for the better, because doing work like this also changes my life for the better. I look forward to continuing my commitment and advocacy for veterans across my district for many years to come. 

If you are struggling with an issue that you think my office can help with, do not hesitate to reach out.

Glens Falls: 518-743-0964
Plattsburgh: 518-561-2324
Watertown: 315-782-3150
Washington, D.C.: 202-225-4611

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