Sequester hits the honor guard at military funerals

As federal budget cuts take hold, the Air Force reduces its 7-person detail to as little as 2 personnel at some retired veterans' services.

By Bruce Kennedy Aug 5, 2013 7:44AM

Members of US Army Honor Guard hold a flag over the casket of John P. Bonnassiolle at a funeral service with full military honors in Colma, Calif. on Aug. 10, 2010 (© Jeff Chiu/AP Photo)The economic pinch caused by the federal sequester is being felt by a wide spectrum of Americans as the across-the-board budget cuts ordered by Congress come into effect.


Sequestration is also affecting the nation's final farewells to many Americans who served their country in the armed forces.


In testimony last March before the House Armed Services Committee, Lt. Gen. Howard Bromberg, a deputy chief of staff who handles military funerals for the Army, warned that sequestration could delay military funeral honors for soldiers and veterans.


And now, in some situations, the military is scrambling to find volunteers to replace honor guard members at veterans' funerals.


Sequestration does not affect funeral services for active-duty service personnel. But the Air Force recently decided to forgo the usual seven-person detail at retired veterans' funerals and instead send a minimum of two personnel to fold and present the internment flag and play taps.


"We cherish the service and sacrifice of our retirees," said Brig. Gen. Eden Murrie, director of Air Force services, according to Military.com. "While we had to adjust the Air Force requirement as a result of sequestration, commanders still have latitude to provide seven-member details if local resources permit."


Places like the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas, are filling in the gap with a team of volunteers known as a "military services detachment" to replace the absent honor guard.


"If the family wants it, (the deceased veteran is) going to get full military honors from the MSD guys," Pete Young, the cemetery's director, told KENS 5-TV.


In Great Falls, Mont., the local Marine Corps League has its own honor guard squads and provides service for all honorably discharged veterans regardless of their service branch.


"A veteran is a veteran," Larry Malby, who coordinates the honor guard, said in an interview with The Great Falls Tribune. Malby says the volunteers have provided services for 33 funerals or memorials so far this year, and are expected to participate in about 60 by year's end.


At the Sacramento Valley National Cemetery, retired local Vietnam veterans serve as honor guards at military funerals three days a week.


"Everyone who puts on a uniform deserves a firing party," Andy Derflinger, a former navy petty officer and retired Pacific Gas & Electric (PCG-A) employee, told the Vacaville, Calif., Reporter. "If we weren't here, over three-quarters (of deceased veterans) would not get a firing party."


He says the volunteers, now in their fourth year of service, have picked up several more requests for honor guard services since sequestration was imposed. Their services are available for all veterans.


Sometimes, according to 70-year-old Tom Murray, a former first lieutenant in the 101st Airborne Division, no family members take part in the funerals. "At other times, 200 people,” he added. "It makes no difference. The person deserves the honor."


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149Comments
Aug 5, 2013 8:42AM
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We'll take care of our own if the government/military fail to do so.  A retired Marine. 

Aug 5, 2013 9:10AM
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They have a ~$700 billion budget and have to cut back by less than 3% and they choose to cut from honor guard?  And not some other programs or purchase area?  Sure they couldn't find another place to pull back - maybe buy one less bomber or cancel some other failed program?  Maybe stop buying/building tanks we don't need?  Cancel "Free Donut Fridays" at the base?  An honor guard costs probably 0.000001% of the budget.  Give the fallen military their honor guard - they deserved it.  Stop trying to spin the cuts into some personal travesty to drum up anger.  Stay classy Lt. Gen. Bromberg.
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This is pure BS to treat the families of veterans who have served this country . I don't suppose the current and retired congressional senators and reps would ever think of giving up any of their perks. Like full retirement pay and insurance benefits.

 

What a shame for this country

Aug 5, 2013 9:53AM
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They are looking for the most public facing ways to bring the so called sequester to everyday citizens. And the idea that sequester means LESS spending is false. We spent more in 2012 than 2011 and will spend more in 2013 than in 2012. It is a lie that is perpetually pushed.
Aug 5, 2013 10:37AM
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As long as the same applies to politicians and the President I'll be OK with it, but we all know that will never be the case.
Aug 5, 2013 10:45AM
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So Obama can take another long vacation and congress can closed down for august and the white
house tours are closed and cut defense with all the terrorism going on but not wasteful fraud in the
foodstamp and welfare and medicare and s.s. stimulus tax breaks for green companies etc...all things
the left wing democrats want but not the american people! stop funding obamacare and take care of
the military! next time the PREZ goes to a base they should boo him and refuse to listen to his BS!
this isn't the republicans fault! Obama ordered all the things cut he knew would piss off americans
and try to blame republicans and say SEE WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU MAKE CUTS IN GOVT?

Aug 5, 2013 10:46AM
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The sequester was a 4 percent decrease on the increase to the budget from 2012 to 2013.  With the economy woes of the past 5 years there should have been no increase in the prior years budget.  Govt needs to manage the budget better!!  Oops what budget, I forgot we haven't had one in 5 years!!!!!
Aug 5, 2013 10:52AM
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the government will always, always cut where it makes the lease amount of common sense

only to make the tax paying public think they need the extra tax money.  Local government espically will cut Fireman, Police and Emergency Medics before they cut extra vehicles, extra hired help when not needed amoung other things, its big government at its best.

Aug 5, 2013 11:10AM
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The use of a recorded bugle for taps is a disservice to those who have done their duty for this country.  As a registered member of BAA (Bugles Across America), a non-profit whose 7,000 plus members provide FREE certified buglers to play taps as part of military honors, there is little excuse to play a recording.  Here in the Minneapolis area, we have 50 to 100 people ready and able to perform this last act of service for those who have given so much.


Aug 5, 2013 9:39AM
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Hmmm...interesting but somewhat misleading. As of January 1, 2000, Section 578 of Public Law 106-65 of the National Defense Authorization Act mandates that the United States Armed Forces shall provide the rendering of honors in a military funeral for any eligible veteran if requested by his or her family. As mandated by federal law, an honor guard detail for the burial of an eligible veteran shall a minimum of two members of the Armed Forces, one of whom must be a representative of the parent armed service of the deceased veteran.

 

A firing party may also be provided, but it is not the norm for veterans who did not die on active duty or who are not retirees. Firing parties are more common at veteran's funerals when the deceased veteran lived near a military installation.

 

To clarify: I'm certainly NOT suggesting that all veterans don't deserve such an honor. Both of my parents were World War II veterans who had a three-person detail at their funerals; two to fold and present the flag, a third to play Taps (which is actually done via a recording, not a bugler; also the norm). The Navy detail at my mother's funeral last year told me that Navy Reservists are providing 85% of the details at Navy veterans' funerals.

Aug 5, 2013 11:04AM
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I can't wait for the most despicable and ineffective president to be gone.  Have a look at the gallop pole numbers.  I'm not the only one who thinks so.  By the time this bum is gone, I bet he ends up with the lowest approval rating EVER...  And shame on him and his family for disrespecting the men and women who in some cases gave their lives to protect his ****.
Aug 5, 2013 11:43AM
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Just to clear things up. As a Marine who ran a very large funeral honors program for a couple of years, there will always be two Marines to fold and present the flag to the next of kin regardless of budget problems.

If the Marine Corps cannot provide a rifle detail to fire volleys then a veteran's organization will always be available to do so. VFW, Marine Corp League, American Legion, etc. These men and women are incredible and will do anything for their brothers and sisters.

Don't believe the hype folks.

Aug 5, 2013 11:46AM
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Sure cut everything that involves us the taxpayers, however let our worthless president take a trip to Africa for a hundred million dollars.  He also has to take his high priced vacation later on this month.  Why does he have to fly to some city in the US to run his mouth on a near daily basis.  He can speak his lies in Washington where it does not cost us a cent for flying him around.
Aug 5, 2013 11:11AM
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Don't worry, its all good as long as Obummer has money for his lavish vacations. 

Aug 5, 2013 10:44AM
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I agree with Friend that it appears to be a spin story..

In an article written in the Washington Post (which I do consider right leaning) dated July 1st, the title was "Budget Mayhem that wasn't".. clearly a stark contrast to the article in MSN.

 

One area they talked about is where the Customs and Border Protection Agents were going to face furloughs as well. "Faced up to 14 unpaid days before the Department of Homeland Security shifted money around last  few months".

Another, "U.S Geological Survey officials said they would have to shut off 350 guages that provide crucial prediction of impending floods. They didn't. What was cut instead? $2.7 Million in Conference Expenses".

Still another, "The Justice Department cut more than $300 million in what it called expired balances. This was money that had been allocated in past years but wasn't spent".

And yet one more on FAA cuts, "Congress prevented the furloughs by substituting another cut. It took $253 million from the FAA's Airport Improvement program. Grantees had already told the FAA they didn't need it this year"

 

What all this tells me is that the government can budget monies instead of just spending it here and there, but notice this only happened because of the sequester.

 

But then we see this..

"Broadcasting Board of Governors[A]:
$752 million: includes budgets of each entity and other administrative
costs.
Voice of America[A]:
$206 million: provides global, U.S., and local news, as well as
information on U.S. policies, to people living in closed societies.
Office of Cuba Broadcasting[A]:
$28 million: provides the people of Cuba with information they
ordinarily would not receive because of the censorship practices of
the Cuban government.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty[B]:
$93 million: provides radio programming to, and about, Eastern Europe
and the former Soviet Union.
Radio Free Asia[B]:
$41 million: provides news and information to Asian countries whose
governments prohibit access to a free press.
Middle Eastern Broadcasting Networks, Inc.[B]:
$110 million: provides news and information about the Middle East
region, the world, and the United States, to the people of the Middle
East."

I think we could cut back these a little don'tchathink?

 

And the latest from the outer banks North Carolina, where they want to spend $15-22 million building beach access for vehicles.. Trouble is, this is in the areas for protected migratory birds...

 

Ummm, why??  

 

Aug 5, 2013 10:46AM
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golf and travel are this adm. priority, and about all they've done possitively.pablo
Aug 5, 2013 11:57AM
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THIS IS A DISGRACE TO OUR MILITARY.

 

Aug 5, 2013 11:21AM
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How about an honor guard for that worthless congress?
Aug 5, 2013 10:39AM
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Not a big deal here. Just another liberal attack on responsible spending in an effort to shame those trying to get us to live within our means.  I will say though that there are countless other ways to cut spending that also need to be addressed.  When various agencies are spending thousands upon thousands of dollars for parties and conferences at the tax payors expense, that is target number 1. Again, much to do about nothing other than trying to stir the pot and create an issue when there isn;t one.
Aug 5, 2013 10:51AM
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I would have a Lt. Gen. Howard Bromberg fired for not being innovative or creative with budget changes except to reduce services which are very apparent to the public and disrespectful to our service members. To do this to the service members, of which he is part of, is a very sad situation. I see where Lt. Gen. Howard Bromberg has a Purple Heart, most likely from a paper scratch or bump on the head going to the safety tunnels, as I do not see any CIB badge for him. I would identify him next to the word "insensitive coward" in our military dictionary.

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