HONOLULU (KHON) – The 21-gun salute is an honor earned by everyone who has served our country, but it’s no longer available to members of one branch of the military.
The U.S. Air Force says it can no longer provide the salute for funeral services.
A family contacted Action Line after they were told they cannot have the full honor guard service for a loved who served in the Air Force for more than 30 years.
When someone who served in the military is laid to rest, he or she is entitled to have a ceremony that includes the folding of the U.S. flag that is then handed to a family member, the traditional and solemn tune of Taps, and a 21-gun salute.
But those who served in the Air Force can only have two of those.
“To me, without the 21-gun salute, it just does not make it complete a proper military burial and I think because of sequestration or the lack of funds or whatever excuse they’re giving, that they had to hit the veterans,” said veteran Wayne Wakeman.
Wakeman served in the Air Force and Air National Guard for more than 36 years, and he’s shocked that this is happening.
“Once a veteran passes away, it’s for the family. It shows respect for the veteran to pass it on to the family,” he said. “My family suffered through a lot of the times I was away, when I was deployed, when I was somewhere else. They lived through it so to me, I think they’re the ones that earn it.”
A spokesman for the Air Force says it’s because of the lack of funding and personnel and it’s being done across the country. A memo was sent out to all the funeral homes saying the honor guard will reduce retiree and veteran funeral details from a seven-person detail to a three-person detail.
It’s still committed to ensuring proper honors. The three-person team will include two individuals who will fold and present the internment flag and one who will play Taps.
A spokesman also says if volunteers from the other military branches are willing to help, then Air Force veterans can still get a 21-gun salute.
“We’re all one big family as a U.S. military,” Wakeman said, “but to eliminate the 21-gun salute completely just for an Air Force veteran or someone that died in combat, I just cannot see that.”
KHON2 reached out to U.S. Representatives Tulsi Gabbard and Mark Takai and were told they are looking into this.