Hawaii families say many veterans denied full burial honors

Hawaii families say many veterans denied full burial honors
Updated: Nov. 11, 2016 at 6:23 PM HST
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(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Back in 1951, August Herring was drafted by the Army to serve in the Korean War and was honorably discharged two years later.

Before he died, Herring asked his family for a full military burial, which includes a three-gun volley rifle salute, followed by presentation of colors and the playing of taps.

"It would be the honor that he is deserving of but also that it would his way of saying thank you to the country for allowing him to serve," said his daughter, local attorney Cynthia Quinn.

But last month, after Herring's death, the Army told his family that there would be no rifle salute because he did not serve in the Army for 20 years or did not die while in service. The family was left stunned and disappointed.

"It wasn't just a personal request because it was my dad. It was for all of his brother soldiers," Quinn said.

Before 2001, the three-gun volley rifle salute along with the playing of Taps and the presentation of the colors was the traditional way the military honored its veterans.

Since then, the military has only been required to provide a minimum of service, which does not include the rifle salute. Many blame budget cuts.

The change meant that even soldiers who saw combat duty -- such as members of the decorated 442nd Regimental Combat Team -- would not be eligible for full burial honors unless they served more than 20 years.

Gene Castagnetti, former director of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl, said local commanders still have the option of providing the rifle salute but only the Marines have chosen to do so.

"That rifle salute is a symbol of a grateful nation and its thanks to the veterans and ... their families," Castagnett said.

He added, "I think (the rifle salute) should be given to every veteran regardless of whether they served two or three years, were drafted or never completed retirement."

He said he believes that all veterans are deserving because of the sacrifices they make when they enlist or are drafted into the service.

"What is a veteran? He or she is a man or woman who has served their nation and in doing so wrote a check -- a blank check -- to the United States government for an undisclosed amount up to and including their life," he said.

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