Only 45 percent of the many World War II and Korean war veterans passing away these days, are able to get military honor guards at their funerals. So the U.S. Department of Defense has decided to allow veterans organizations to fill in. Actually, veterans have been helping out, and the government would pay them, if an active duty member of the armed forces was available to lead the detail. Under the new program, veterans organizations will be able to provide uniformed vets for the honor guards, and these volunteers would get $50 for their day long efforts to assist at the funeral, without the presence of active or reserve troops. This still leaves some veterans in rural areas out of luck. Over the last few decades, many rural areas have become depopulated to the point where even local veterans organizations cannot find enough members to operate a chapter.
Having the honor guard, to fire a volley over the grave of the veteran, is a often a big thing for the families, and the vets often ask for it before they pass away. For many of these men and women, their war service was a defining moment in their lives. They want it to be remembered, and the honor guard is the most visible way to do that.