Budget cuts prevented a local retired Air Force member from getting his dying wish: to have a full military honor guard at his funeral.
Heber Steck's widow, Kathy Steck, remembers her husband as a man who loved serving his country. He joined the Air Force in 1972.
"That was his life. For twenty one plus years, that was his life," she said.
The retired veteran recently passed away from cancer and his family was disappointed to learn that instead of the usual seve-member honor guard, Steck would only have two guards at his funeral.
"She said that they are only going to send two people. I said, 'What? She said that's it. That's all they are allowed to send," Steck said.
After the funerals director broke the news, the family learned that the Air Force changed its funeral services. According to the department's website, in June of 2013, the Air Force scaled back its military funeral honors for retired veterans. Because of federal budget cuts, instead of providing a seven-member detail for all retiree funerals, the department will only send two.
Heartbroken by the news, Steck's daughter, Crystal Johnson, launched an online petition. Her goal is that 200,000 people will join her in asking Congress to make sure retirees are being honored as promised. Since Johnson launched the petition, 5,200 people seem to agree. The family hopes the right people hear their concern.
"I want to see them change it. If you promise them something, fulfill your promise," Steck said.
These changes only affect Air Force retirees. It does not affect funeral services for veterans or active duty members. The Air Force says families can reach out to authorized veterans organizations that might be able to help to provide additional support for retiree funeral honors.
Retired veterans are those who have served 20 or more years in their military branch or those who are permanently disabled due to military service.
To read more about the Steck family's fight or sign their petition, please visit http://www.change.org/petitions/congress-give-military-retirees-full-military-burials.
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