Joseph Windsor was on his deathbed last year when his daughter promised she would try to grant his longtime wish - a burial with full military honors.
But when the Korean War veteran died, the military said budget cuts and a personnel shortage made his wish impossible. So Sherry Vanlandingham complained to Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md., who arranged full honors for her dad, who lived in Pomfrit, Md."We were raised to believe in the flag and the United States of America. It meant a lot to us," said Vanlandingham.
But Windsor's family was lucky, because a growing number of Americans can't get honor guards to say goodbye to their war heroes.
Some World War II veterans are in their 80s and 90s, and they are dying at a rapid pace - nearly 1,500 per day.
At the same time, the military is shrinking, down 33 percent in personnel since 1989 and with 77 bases closed in the same period. So fewer people are available to serve as buglers, pallbearers and rifle squads. The aging veterans are increasingly unable to fill the void.
Lawmakers have heard hundreds of complaints.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Lane Evans, D-Ill., inserted language into a $270.5 billion defense authorization bill that would require the Defense Department to hold a conference on the problem this fall and report possible solutions to Congress by March.
The language also says that survivors of the nation's 25 million veterans can get a three-person honor guard for a veteran beginning in 2000. The detail could come from veterans' or other organizations.
The House cleared the bill last week, and the Senate is expected to approve it as early as this week.
Meanwhile, veterans groups and military officials met in Washington this month to look for solutions and will meet again in November.