Democratic lawmakers are saying “no” to Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s proposed budget cut to honor guard detachments at veterans’ funerals.
Sen. President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said Sunday in a press release that his caucus would look to restore the funding.
“Our veterans have served and sacrificed on our behalf,” Looney said. “As the budget moves through the process, we will work to restore funding or mitigate these cuts so that when our veterans are laid to rest they receive the honors they deserve.”
Malloy’s proposed budget would cut $469,533 in funding for the honorary funeral procedures for Connecticut veterans. Although the service is supported by both federal and state funding, state Commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Greg Smith said that the state funding is necessary to provide the full service.
Through this service, members of the honor guard can be asked to carry the casket of the deceased, stand in line at the cemetery, and most commonly fire the volley of shots at the burial, according to Ronald Rusakiewicz, adjutant for Connecticut’s VFW. The detachment also folds the flag over the casket and provides it to the spouse or next of kin.
“I don’t understand why the governor would choose this to cut,” Smith said Monday.
Smith said that he has been the person to present the flag at a veteran’s funeral before. “It’s a difficult honor. If you have been to the graveside and seen the service, it’s hard to put in words what it means to the family,” he said.
The VFW Commander said that he hopes that the governor and legislators live up to the full intent of state statute 27-76, which requires an honor guard detail at the funeral of a veteran of the United States armed forces or the National Guard.
According to the statute:
Sec. 27-76. Honor guard detail at funeral of veteran of United States armed forces or National Guard. When requested by the commander of any accredited veteran organization or by friends or relatives of any deceased person who has served in any of the armed forces of the United States during time of war, as defined by section 27-103, or who has served in the National Guard for more than twenty years or who has died while a member of the National Guard, the Adjutant General shall order an honor guard detail from the National Guard, the naval militia, the State Guard or the organized militia to attend the funeral, except that if an honor guard detail from such guard or militia is unavailable or committed elsewhere, the Adjutant General shall request an honor guard detail from a bona fide Connecticut state veterans’ organization, provided such detail shall comply with the rules and procedures set forth in Connecticut National Guard regulation 37-106. Such detail shall consist of not more than five members plus one bugler. The members thereof shall be compensated at the rate of fifty dollars per day. Such compensation shall be paid from funds appropriated to the Adjutant General for the pay of the National Guard and from federal funds received for that purpose.
Malloy said Friday that he has great respect for veterans and believes his administration has been “surgical” in the cuts it made to the budget.
“Some of those are tough decisions,” Malloy said. “Some of those may do away with institutions that have existed in our state for hundreds of years and we’ll continue to make sure our veterans are honored.”
But Senate Democratic leaders vowed to restore the funding when the legislature’s two budget writing committees release their budget next month.
“This funding represents a small amount in the overall budget, however, the honor guards play a large role in demonstrating our appreciation of our veterans’ service,” Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, said.