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Nevada Guard funeral team cut in half under new budget

Among federal funding cutbacks that affect the state’s military is one that lops the Nevada Army National Guard’s funeral team in half — from eight full-time soldiers to four — during the fiscal year that begins Saturday.

Nevada’s honor guard budget was reduced from $349,000 in 2016 to $194,000, reflective of across-the-board funding cuts for special projects, according to the Nevada Guard’s personnel office.

That means the already stretched honor guard team will have to be creative in its use of personnel to carry out funerals with full military honors for the families of Army veterans.

Nevada’s four-soldier honor guard can expect to attend up to 50 events monthly in Southern Nevada and about 15 events monthly in northern Nevada as more Army veterans from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War eras die. In all, that’s approximately 685 per year.

Regardless of what solution evolves, the task will continue to be tough given that the burden has increased by 100 funerals in four years for Nevada Army veterans, from 670 in 2013 to 770 for the fiscal year that ended Friday, said spokesman Sgt. 1st Class Erick Studenicka.

“The honor guard will aim to fulfill all of its requests, but it will likely have to rely more on soldiers volunteering for duty on short-term orders,” he said Friday.

Studenicka added that “it’s impossible to forecast the number of Army veteran deaths that will occur in the state in 2017, so it’s possible a four-man team could support all of the events.”

He said the honor guard team has always welcomed volunteers, “but its reliance upon the volunteer soldiers to fulfill all of requests for support across the state in 2017 will likely be greater than at any time since 9/11.”

Studenicka predicted other “visible effects” from cutbacks will be a decrease in community relations events that the Nevada Guard traditionally supports, such as Army aviation flyovers and color guard presentations.

He said soldiers interested in volunteering for the honor guard team can call 702-339-1297.

Military funeral details usually perform flag folding, flag presentation and the playing of taps. Other tasks include rifle detail, duty as a pallbearer and caisson movement, Studenicka said.

Contact Keith Rogers at krogers@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0308. Find him on Twitter: @KeithRogers2

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