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The Air Force will no longer fire three volley salutes at veteran funerals

When a veteran or member of the armed forces dies, he or she is entitled to a ceremony that includes the presentation of a U.S. flag to a family member and a bugler blowing Taps. Most of the time, there is a three-volley rifle salute if requested by family members. But now, if the deceased served in the Air Force, the three-volley salute is not an option because the Air Force can no longer support riflemen for funeral services for veteran retirees.


Staff Sgt. Sean Edmondson and other new honor guard members exit the field after the funeral ceremony at the honor guard graduation at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. (U.S. Air Force photo/Samuel King Jr.)

Seven member services for retirees included six members to serve as pall-bearers, a six member flag-folding detail, and a three riflemen to fire the salute. Veteran's funerals now only receive the services of two-member teams, who provide a flag-folding ceremony, the playing of taps, and the presentation of the flag to the next of kin.

(U.S. Air Force Photo)

"To me, without the 21-gun salute, it just does not make it complete a proper military burial," veteran Wayne Wakeman told Honolulu's KHON 2 News. "I think because of sequestration or the lack of funds or whatever excuse they're giving, that they had to hit the veterans."

Wakeman is correct in supposing the cut is due to sequestration, the 2013 automatic federal spending cuts required by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

The RAF Mildenhall Honor Guard performs a three-volley salute during the Madingley American Cemetery Memorial Service in Cambridge. (U.S. Air Force Photo)

Rose Richeson, from the Secretary of the Air Force's Public Affairs Press Desk, told We Are The Mighty the policy of restricting the funeral honor is an Air Force-wide requirement.

"The requirement is consistent with  DoD policy which require a minimum of two personnel," Richeson said. "Any number of personnel above two that is provided in support of military funeral honors is based on local resources available."

A three-volley salute is the correct term for what is commonly (though mistakenly) referred to as a 21-gun salute. There are often seven riflemen, totaling 21. The origin of the three-volley funeral honor lies elsewhere, according to the Tom Sherlock, an Arlington National Cemetery Historian. A 21-gun salute is reserved for Presidents of the United States or visiting heads of state.