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Military burial honors put on hold due to pandemic

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – Families of military veterans are feeling the impact of COVID-19 after military burial honors were postponed in an effort to stop the spread of the virus.

“As a veteran, they have earned that right and that honor to be bestowed on them for their final honors,” said Erin Macking, daughter of a U.S. Navy Veteran.

Macking is the daughter of Navy veteran, Herbert Karkheck. He served as a military police officer for four years. After actively serving, Karkheck dedicated his time to veterans. He performed final honors like rifle salutes and the folding of the American flag at funeral services.

That same honor Karkheck gave is now something that is being stripped from veterans. The National Cemetery Administration, which is part of that Department of Veterans Affairs, postponed all military funeral honors in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Karkheck was laid to rest by Veterans Funeral Care home in Clearwater. Karkheck’s burial service was one of the last to receive full military honors. Jim Rudolph, Director of Veterans Funeral Care, said eliminating this honor was very difficult, especially for the Vietnam veterans.

“They weren’t treated right when they came back and now because of this pandemic they can’t get military honors,” Rudolph said. “They weren’t treated right then and it’s just a terrible set of circumstances that have caused this to happen.”

Rudolph said there’s no way around this. He currently has a backlog of at least 75 veterans who expected to receive military honors at their funeral service. Rudolph says they will get the honor and recognition they deserve after restrictions are lifted.

“We will be calling people chronologically, starting with the people who have been waiting the longest, and we will be scheduling honors going forward,” Rudolph said.

Macking says her heart goes out to those families waiting for their loved ones military honors.

“My heart goes out to those families that cannot witness and be a part of those final honors for their loved one who’s a veteran,” Macking said. “My hope is they still have peace that their family member is in a better place, but at the same time I know that is heart wrenching to not be a part of bestowing those final honors.”

On this Memorial Day, both Macking and Rudolph hope people still focus on the sacrifice veterans made and honor them appropriately.

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