, Muskogee, OK

October 11, 2012

Veterans, families deserve better

— Budget cuts are threatening to deny families of veterans a proper military farewell — and that’s just wrong.

The Oklahoma National Guard’s budget for full-time staff to perform funeral details — folding and presentation of the United States flag and the playing of taps — is being cut while the number of veterans’ funerals increase.

The Guard’s budget for funerals for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1 is about $287,000. Last fiscal year’s initial budget and a subsequent allocation in March totaled $552,000.

In fiscal year 2008, the Guard served about 770 funerals. The Guard served 1,464 funerals last fiscal year.

Funeral details have been cut to two soldiers — the minimum required to fold the flag and play taps.

“You can always do more; we just have to do the minimum,” Staff Sgt. Marvin Barbee told the Tulsa World.

It would be a disgrace for the federal government to allow veterans and their families to be treated with anything short of ultimate respect.

While both Republicans and Democrats argue over funding the military, they should be able to find a way to agree to fund honor guards.

Our men and women risk their lives.

Their families need to know their country appreciates their service.

The U.S. needs to prove it remains proud of those men and women.

Veterans deserve better for their sacrifice to their country.

Their families deserve better, too.