County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef has signed into law a bill that sets out rules and regulations governing the county’s two veterans’ cemeteries.
Vanderhoef said that he had signed the measure yesterday. It was adopted 15-0 March 2 by the Rockland County Legislature.
The rules were developed by members of the Rockland County Veterans Coordinating Council, which represents various veteran organizations in the county and has input into major issues faced by the veteran groups.
The new law was passed in order to put official rules on the books after one veteran sought to erect a Marine service flag on the graves of his fallen comrades, but was told such flags were not allowed. Only small American flags are permitted, along with some other adornments, as a way of keeping some general overall cohesiveness to the cemeteries, the final resting place for those who fought, and some who died, in World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf and Iraq.
The county operates the Frederick W. Loescher Veterans Memorial Cemetery in New Hempstead and the Gary Onderdonk Rockland Veterans Cemetery on the grounds of Rockland Community College.
Loescher was dedicated in 1976, with its first burial in 1978. It totals 21 acres and will ultimately accommodate about 3,500 graves. It features a ring of flag poles bearing the flags of the main military service branches, including the Marines.
Onderdonk was dedicated in 1982, but had its first burial in 1961 when it was known as the Rockland County Veterans Cemetery. It totals about two acres.
The new law will next be forwarded to the state Secretary of State, where it will officially enter the books, taking effect about 30 days later.
Here are the new rules and regulations:
1. Visitation permitted during daylight hours.
2. Trees or shrubs not permitted on or near any grave or plot; all graves shall be kept flat with surrounding area, except county planting for general beautification.
3. No above-ground fixtures such as vases, urns, tubs or hanging baskets allowed. Cut flowers or wreaths left by funeral party will be removed after a reasonable time.
4. Ground-level urns for placement of cut flowers will be located behind the stone, with a limit of one urn per grave; flowers will be removed at the discretion of the groundskeeper.
5. Grave wreaths permitted during religious holidays; removed at the discretion of the groundskeeper.
6. Veterans, patriotic or fraternal flag holders may be placed behind the headstone, but must be no higher than 12 inches from ground level.
7. A small American flag may be placed behind the headstone at any time during the year. They will be removed when faded, torn or blown away from original site.
8. Only county employees will maintain burial sites.
9. Anyone caught desecrating, disturbing or interfering with any grave, funeral service or any part of the cemetery will be prosecuted.
10. Anything not specifically covered is left to the discretion and pre-approval of the burial commissioner as long as the commissioner uniformly applies and implements.
Source: Rockland County Legislature