With the Memorial Day weekend approaching, this article is dedicated to those who volunteered their service to this country and who have passed.
Not many people are aware that Guard and Reserve service members do not automatically become eligible for military burials. In order for Reserve and Guard service members to be eligible for a military burial, they must be called up for active duty, serve the full term of service, AND not receive a dishonorable discharge.
A bill to correct this oversight is important, but sadly Senate bill 2089, the Burial Equity for Guards and Reserves Act of 2021, does not live up to its title.
Per its cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office, “The bill would not authorize or provide additional funds for cemetery grants, nor would it authorize VA to reimburse cemeteries for burial expenses for people who did not serve on active duty.”
The Guard and Reserve service members signed up to serve this country and stood ready to deploy when the country called upon them.
While it is unlikely that the Guard and Reserve have a high mortality rate outside deployment, this topic started to come up as the Reserve was disproportionately hit hard by COVID-19 related deaths. The entire Reserve component accounted for 55 of the 86 deaths recorded last year. The Army Reserve led the services with 39 deaths.
Allow me to share a personal story to help you understand how important it is to change the law to include Guard and Reserve members as eligible for all components of a military burial.
As a former reservist, I have lost soldiers far too soon. One passed just as he was getting his life together, and since he had not yet had to deploy for his country, he did not qualify for a military burial. His father’s heart was broken when he was told he could not have his son buried in the local National Cemetery.
We still conducted the traditional memorial service, which wasn’t an easy affair. I had to act as the first sergeant and conduct the roll call ceremony. This means the first sergeant would call out three soldiers’ names, those of two soldiers who are present, and the deceased’s name is called last. When you do not hear a response from this soldier, the song Taps is played. The memory makes it difficult for me to even type this story without crying.
Imagine that this soldier was your daughter, son, sister, brother, niece, nephew, and friend. Brave service members who sign up to serve this country and have the rare luck not to deploy, deserve the honor of all benefits of a military funeral.
Contact your U.S. Representatives to correct this bill; to find them use this site: https://www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative