In a few short weeks, a lasting, permanent memorial honoring our Nationís veterans will be established on the site the former Sampson Naval and Air Force Base where over a million sailors and airmen trained in preparation for battle to defend America.
Saturday, July 30th will mark the official opening of the Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery. The cemetery will be a final resting place for veterans who have sacrificed to keep our Nation free.
Heroes donít strive to become heroes. People are called to heroism, and the heroes are those that answer the call. Every one of the 60 veterans who will first be buried at Sampson answered that call, and all served with honor, dignity and valor. In the days leading up to the cemetery opening, I would like to share some of their personal narratives of courageous service to our Nation. You can read these real life stories on my website, my Facebook page and the Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery Facebook page.
The dedication ceremony will take place on Saturday, July 30th at 11:00 a.m. at the Sampson Veterans' Memorial Cemetery, just south of Sampson State Park along Route 96A in Romulus.
In anticipation of the opening of the Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery, I present to you the real life stories of three local heroes who are to be laid to rest on this hallowed ground. Many more narratives of those who will be interned at the cemetery will follow in the days and weeks ahead:
James Dean Dockstader
November 27, 1934 to September 10, 2007.
Jimís remarkable career of service to our great Nation began on the very grounds where the Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery is now located.
Fifty-nine years ago, he enlisted in the United States Air Force and received his basic training at the Sampson Air Force Base. Jim travelled across our Nation during his time in the Air Force, moving from Texas to Mississippi to serve and protect. Upon completing his training in Radio Intercept Operations, he put his intellect and talent to work on a base in Anchorage, Alaska. Truly a man of great aptitude and skill, Jim was honorably discharged in 1958 after four years of loyal and noble service.
Jim used the knowledge and wisdom he gained from the US Air Force for the rest of his life. While working for various companies, including General Electric, General Dynamics, and Xerox, Jim demonstrated his knack for design, development, and management.
After retiring, Jim devoted his time and energy to helping and honoring his fellow veterans. In 1997, he joined the Sampson Air Force Veteranís Association. Within six years, Jim was elected President of the organization, and he became deeply involved with restoring and procuring displays, such as a T-33 and a Flight Simulator, for the Air Force Museum.
One of the final projects Jim became involved with was the creation of this cemetery as a lasting, permanent memorial to our veterans at the site where he once trained, and where he will now be laid to rest. Jim played a tremendous role in the early stages of Sampson Veterans Cemetery, and we are all grateful to have known him both as a colleague and a friend.
A beloved father, husband, and friend, Jim passed away on September 10, 2007, at the age of 72. He is survived by his wife, Beatrice, his children, Jeanette and James and his granddaughter, Cierra Rose. He will be remembered by all who knew him as a man who placed the happiness and safety of others above his own, and who took great pride in his family, friends, and Nation.
James R. Steele
April 19, 1927 to January 20, 2011.
Jim was only 18 years old when he joined the Army and was sent to Italy to help secure the Allied victory in Europe near the end of World War II.
Returning from his brave service defending our Nation overseas, Jim dedicated his life to protecting the safety of his home community as a lifelong member of the Romulus Fire Department. He joined the Fire Department at the age of 18, and remained an active fireman for 64 years, later serving as Fire Chief and Captain of the Romulus Fire Police. He also served in the Seneca Army Depot Fire Department, and was eventually appointed 1st Assistant Fire Chief for his devoted service protecting the munitions at the Depot during the height of the Cold War. He was named the Seneca County Fireman of the Year in 2004.
Jim was a community oriented man and a familiar face to many throughout Seneca County. In addition to being involved with numerous firefightersí
organizations, he was also a former Special Deputy with the Seneca County Sheriffís Department, a member of the Waterloo and South Seneca Sportsmenís Clubs and was active in planning the annual Romulus Memorial Day Parade.
During warm weather, Jim could often be found sitting in his chair in front of his home, waving to everyone who drove by.
He was also a dedicated family man and devoted husband to his wife of 53 years, Beverly Steele, who passed away several years ago and will be buried alongside him at the Sampson Veterans Memorial Cemetery. He is survived by his daughter, Sandy Travis and his son, Robert Steele, as well as four grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
Donald C. Kidd
August 25, 1922 to March 22, 2011.
Donald C. Kidd was one of the many brave men who, in our Nationís darkest hour, was called to heroism and answered that call.
Upon his graduation from Waterloo High School, Don enlisted in the United States Army to serve in World War II. Don worked as a medical corpsman, putting his life in danger to save the lives of his friends and brothers in arms. Spending most of his time stationed in France, Don likely saw some of the most grisly battles of our Nationís recent history.
After the war, Don returned to Waterloo to jumpstart a successful career with local grocery store chains. He was also a very active member of the First Presbyterian Church of Waterloo, teaching Sunday school and serving as the church sexton for nearly 20 years. Don willingly devoted much of his time and talents to the church and his community, and always went above and beyond to help those in need.
He is remembered by his wife of 64 years, Ina, his daughters, Donna and Carol, and his five grandchildren for his laidback personality and lighthearted sense of humor. Don found great joy in the simplest of lifeís moments, relaxing and spending time with his loving family.
On the battlefield and off, Don was entirely committed to putting others before himself. It is fitting that Don will be laid to rest in the same community that he knew and loved- close to his neighbors, friends, and family.