The Governor's proposal to cut state funding for honor guard details at veterans' funerals has drawn criticism. Now some legislative leaders have quickly stepped in to address the controversy.
The Department of Defense defines military funeral honors "as the ceremonial paying of respect and final demonstration of the nation's gratitude to those who in times of war and peace faithfully defended our nation." In Connecticut, the National Guard administers the program, and it's paid for mostly by the federal government along with a state contribution.
But Malloy's budget proposed cutting the state portion, more than $469,000.
On Friday, State Commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Connecticut, Greg Smith, wrote a letter to the governor opposing the cut on behalf of the group's 26,000 members. "I know that without the state's augmentation, the full detail would not be available to the next of kin or spouses," he said. "The full detail being the bugler, the rifle squad, and the presentation of the flag: these things are happening simultaneously at the graveside."
Later that day, when speaking to reporters, Malloy explained the budget cut saying federal funding for military honors would still allow three individuals to make up an Honor Guard detail. "The question is: how large is the component, and what dollars can we access to make sure we are properly honoring all of our veterans?"
By Sunday, Senate Democrats were vowing to restore the funding. In a statement, Senate President Martin Looney said when Connecticut veterans are laid to rest they should receive the honors they deserve.
Smith with the VFW commended the legislators. He said no loved one of a veteran at his or her funeral wants to hear that part of the military honors ceremony was removed to save a very small amount of money in the Connecticut budget.
States vary on the number of people provided for Military Funeral Honors. Maryland, for example, offers veterans' families a three-person detail, which consists of two military personnel and a live bugler. But Maryland will also arrange a seven person detail or what's called Full Honors, with as many as 21 members.