March 10, 2023 By Bill Parry
With Vietnam veterans dying off at a rate of nearly 400 a day nationwide, and many of them dying alone, state Senator Michael Gianaris announced Friday, March 10, that his bill to provide proper burials for veterans’ unclaimed remains passed unanimously, 60-0.
The measure, known as S.454, requires affected counties and the city of New York to work with a local veteran service organization to provide dignified burials, even when veterans do not have a next-of-kin or the means to provide for their burial. The local veteran’s service organization would contract with a funeral home to provide these services.
Nearly 59,000 veterans of the Vietnam War, the Korean War, World War II, and other conflicts call Queens home, more than any other borough in New York City.
“Those who served our country deserve a respectful funeral and burial,” Gianaris, whose grandfather and namesake was a U.S. Army veteran, said. “It is important our communities afford those who sacrificed the appropriate respect. I am proud of my Senate colleagues and I support our veterans.”
Woodside resident Pedro Nieves — was stationed in Italy, France, and Germany, serving in Field Artillery during World War II. Nieves also fought during the Korean War, where he served with the 65th Infantry Regiment, Company B, known as the “Borinqueneers,” an all-Puerto Rican Company.
During that time, the 65th Regiment saw most of the combat, including the Battle of the Chosin Reservoir. He was deployed in Korea until the end of the conflict in 1953.
Nieves applauded the passage of Gianaris’ measure.
“As a veteran myself, I fully support this legislation,” Nieves said. “A dignified burial honors the service and sacrifices of our veterans. I would be heartbroken if any of my fellow soldiers did not get a respectful burial. Thank you, Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris for sponsoring this important legislation and advocating on behalf of New York’s veterans.”
Born in Bayamon, Puerto Rico in 1925, Nieves is a member of the Sunnyside Community Services’ Center for Active Older Adults, and last June, with his wife Betty by his side, Nieves was inducted into the New York State Senate Veterans Hall of Fame by Gianaris at the community center.