AUGUSTA - After learning that federal National Guard Bureau has proposed cutting the Maine Funeral Honors Program by 58%, Governor Paul R. LePage has asked the Congressional delegation to restore funding and has instructed state officials to find the resources to fully fund the program.
"Without my action, the federal government will fail to honor our commitments for far too many veterans. That is unacceptable," Governor LePage wrote in an October 1 letter to the Congressional delegation. "Therefore, I will be issuing an Executive Order to ensure we do not let our veterans and their families go without the honor and dignity they have earned."
The Maine Funeral Honors Program helped pay final respects to over 1,300 deceased veterans in 2013. Federal law requires that a funeral honors detail is provided for the funeral of any eligible veteran. The funding cuts would significantly reduce the Maine National Guard's ability to provide funeral honors.
If funding is not restored, soldiers stationed in Fort Drum, N.Y. would be sent to conduct the funeral ceremonies in Maine. However, Maine National Guard officials say it is unrealistic that they could provide over 1,000 honor details a year in Maine.
"In the interim, I have instructed the relevant state officials to ensure that no honor ceremony request is denied and to find the necessary funding and resources to make up this shameful shortfall," the Governor wrote.