Wasilla widow helps families to get veterans full military funeral honors with new legislation
Kathryn Sharp found it "heartbreaking" to learn her husband Creig, a retired Navy chief petty officer and Vietnam veteran, might not get full military honors when he passed away in 2018.
She says her husband's Navy funeral honors request form noted that full military honors, including rifle details, were reserved for Medal of Honor recipients or active duty members who died in the line of duty.
"I don't think a lot of people realize that. And you don't find out until the worst day of your life," she said.
Sharp says with a lot of effort from Maj. Gen. Laurie Hummel, the former Alaska National Guard Adjutant General, and the state Department of Veterans Affairs, she was able to get the honors she was hoping for, including the playing of taps, a gun salute and pallbearers. But Sharp was worried about other families who might not get the same military funeral honors for a loved one.
So she contacted Sen. Dan Sullivan.
Sullivan, Sen. Lisa Murkowski and other U.S. senators pushed for the passage of the Creig Sharp Funeral Honors for Veterans Act. The measure got tied up in government red tape in November, but lawmakers approved it earlier this month as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. The new law requires military installations across the country to develop a plan to make sure families of veterans who want full military funeral honors get them.
Sharp says her husband Creig would not have been happy if the focus been only on him. She says his death was where she learned about military funeral policy issues and from there she focused on changing things for other families. Sharp says Sullivan was "helpful and hardworking" to bring change for others.
Sullivan says Alaska may be a test case for the new measure.
"The base commanders throughout America don't know this is now one of their requirements," said the senator.
He says the act will take some time to implement but thinks commanders won't need to be told to do this, saying they're going to want to help veterans.
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