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Calverton cemetery, resting place for fallen heroes

There are more than 214,000 stories in Calverton National Cemetery.

In the same row in one section of the huge cemetery are markers for Lance Cpl. Warren Richardson and Navy Corpsman Joseph Milano, who were killed in the 1983 bombing of the Marines barracks in Beirut.

There's one for former Army Pfc. Luigi Ciulla, an Italian immigrant who served in World War I, and who in his final months regaled fellow residents at the Northport Veterans Affairs Medical Center with Italian arias and one-liners before he died at age 94 in 1989.

There is another for former Army private Moses Stewart, who became a community activist after his 16-year-old son, Yusuf Hawkins, was beaten to death in 1989 in Bensonhurst.

Medal of Honor recipient

A Medal of Honor recipient, Navy Lt. Michael P. Murphy, is in Calverton, as is the final resting place of former Air Force Col. Francis S. Gabreski, the first fighter pilot to become an ace in both World War II and Korea.

Monday, Calverton, which is expanding its area for future graves by nearly 90 acres, will be the burial site for Staff Sgt. Keith Bishop. The Medford Green Beret was one of 10 Americans killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan on Oct. 26.

For many Long Islanders who served in the military, their future burials will be on more than 1,000 graceful acres dotted with trees a few miles northwest of downtown Riverhead. Thanks to a $32.2-million development of a new section on its grounds, Calverton National Cemetery will continue to serve as the region's primary military burial ground for years to come, for former military personnel and family members.

What is now the Department of Veterans Affairs began planning for a new national cemetery in the 1970s, when it became apparent that what was then the Island's only military cemetery - Long Island National Cemetery, in Pinelawn - would one day run out of space.

Calverton, at about 1,050 acres, is the nation's largest in the area. The expansion will also add some 33,000 pre-placed crypts and 4,800 niches for cremated remains.

The cemetery serves the more than 800,000 veterans living in the metropolitan area.

Each marker has a story

For the military personnel buried in Calverton, each marker is the story of a man or a woman who served his or her country, in war or in peace, at home or abroad. Some died long after their service had ended. Others died in combat a long way from home and family.

"I go to Calverton three times a week," said Daniel Murphy, a Vietnam Army veteran, Michael Murphy's father. "I see it as the jewel of the Veterans Administration cemeteries. It's on the pristine North Fork of Long Island. It's open and beautiful and full of history. I go there for Michael, but for all the other heroes, too. I visit him and then walk down the row of markers to honor everyone."

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