AGAWAM, Mass. (WWLP) – Some families are saying the Massachusetts Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Agawam closes too early and that’s preventing them from seeing their loved ones. On Wednesday, State Senator John Velis expressed dissatisfaction with those hours.

Anthony Russo is a city councilor for Agawam. He had just laid his father to rest last week but he realized if he wanted to see his father’s grave on a weekday, it was going to have be during business hours. Russo’s father, Louis, was a Sergeant in the Air Force during the Vietnam War. He was laid to rest last Thursday at the Massachusetts Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Agawam but each time Anthony tries to visit after work, he runs into the same problem.

“I got here at 3:30, gates were locked. So today was the first day I could visit my father since Sunday,” said Russo.

The gates close at 4 p.m. but Senator John Velis said they should at least remain open until dusk like most other cemeteries.

“To get here and say you can only come here until 4 o’clock when many people, not all, have a job, maybe a traditional 9 to 5 job, and they’re completely precluded from seeing their loved one. That’s just wrong,” said Senator Velis.

For Anthony, seeing his father’s grave helps him feel close to his father but it also allows him to begin the healing journey.

“I miss him, so I want to come here every day,” said Russo. “How great he was as a dad, how much I learned from him, how much he inspired me to do what I do now. Of course I always say, “Don’t worry about mom, dad, I got mom.”

Senator Velis said he’s reached out to state officials to change the hours.

Linnea Walsh, Executive Office of Veterans’ Services, sent 22News a statement saying, “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 4pm 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.”