Air Force Funerals Get Makeover

By Faye Higbee

Air Force Funerals – No More Three Volley Salutes

The USAF will no longer provide three volley salutes for retiree or veteran funerals. Citing a lack of personnel, they disbanded the honor across the Air Force. Budget Cuts, you know.

A three volley salute by 7 men = 21 total rounds. But this is not a “21 gun salute” although many use the term interchangeably.

An honor no longer available

“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…

Once a veteran passes away, it’s for the family. It shows respect for the veteran to pass it on to the family. 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.” Wayne Wakeman, 36 year USAF/National Guard veteran

Hawaii salute a no-go

A man who served in the Air Force for more than 30 years was refused the full honor guard service recently. A report by Honolulu’s KHON stated that Hawaii representatives Tulsi Gabbard and Mark Takai were looking into the change. The Air Force has stated it can no longer support riflemen giving the honor at funerals. Thus far it only affects the Air Force.

According to the Air Force Times, the ruling was actually put into effect back in 2013. It just so happened that Hawaii had more resources available to last longer than other places in the mainland. Other USAF areas will only get two man teams.

The Air Force Times reported,

Base commanders can still field a seven-person team for retirees if the honor guard members are available. If not, commanders may contact members from Veteran Service Organizations, other retirees or Reserve Officer Training Corps units, provided they are willing to “pay a statutory stipend” according to Air Force regulations.

Qualified USAF personnel in Hawaii will get three-man teams to provide honors at the funerals.  The  teams will provide the flag folding presentation with two men and one for taps. People can still get a 3 volley salute if they have local volunteers from other branches of the military that are willing to assist.

The Three Volley Salute  is typically performed by 3 to 7 men called a “rifle party.”  They fire blank cartridges into the air 3 times each.  Many confuse it with the 21-gun salute, which is typically artillery pieces fired in honor of Presidents or heads of state.

Tradition has it that the salute was fired after the internment of war casualties in Europe, and was a signal to the warring sides that the battle could continue.

It’s a sad day when honor – full honor- for military retirees and veterans is no longer available just because of money.