Concerns rise as Agawam Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery reduce visitation hours

Concerns continue in the local veteran community after visiting hours were reduced at Veteran’s Memorial Cemetery in Agawam.
Published: Mar. 30, 2023 at 6:22 PM EDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

AGAWAM, MA. (WGGB/WSHM) - Concerns continue in the local veteran community after visiting hours were reduced at Veteran’s Memorial Cemetery in Agawam.

City councilor Anthony Russo’s father served in the air force during the Vietnam War. He was recently buried in the Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Agawam, but he said he hasn’t had much time to visit.

“My father was a big part of my life we just out him here a week ago today,” said Russo. “I want to come here every day he was a devout catholic I want to say a prayer over his grave and just let him know every day that I’m still thinking about him, and I love him.”

In recent months, visiting hours at the cemetery have been slashed. Instead of closing at dusk, gates now close at 4 p.m.

Russo said this impacts many people like him who now can’t make it to the cemetery in time.

“I usually work between a half an hour to an hour away from home, so by the time I get back from out of town, it’s too late,” said Russo. “You have people that work 9 to 5 they can’t see their loved ones”

State senator John Velis told Western Mass News the hours change is not fair, noting the Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery in Winchendon is open to visitors 24/7. He added that he is in contact with state officials about this.

“The second I started hearing from constituents I immediately reached out to the state just recently spoke to literally just right now with the secretary letting them know my concerns,” said Senator Velis. “I’m far less concerned with the why because the reality is its one its 4 so I’m going to be real hard pressed to understand a reason the difference between 4 and dusk you know four and 6.”

They explained they want to see these hours changed so more people can come to visit and reflect.

“The people who are buried here selflessly served their country whether they raise their hand volunteers or drafted,” said Senator Velis.

“These are our true American heroes they deserve as much respect as when they pass away as they do alive and we want to give them respect by coming to these hallow grounds,” said Russo.

We also received a statement from the Executive Office of Veterans’ Services about the concerns that reads:

“The Massachusetts Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Agawam opened in May 2001 as the first state veteran’s cemetery. In October 2022 a decision was made by the previous administration to close the gates at 4 p.m. daily due to its close proximity to a major tourist attraction, subsequent staffing challenges, and concerns over ensuring the safety and security of the site. Various different approaches exist among veteran cemeteries at the state and federal level regarding visitation hours. Both state-operated veteran cemeteries offer a place for peace and comfort for mourning families, and we are currently exploring ways to expand visitation hours.”