Federal budget cuts affect military jet flyovers

By Catherine Cruz
Published On: Mar 11 2013 05:04:00 PM HST

War veterans are lamenting the loss of military flyovers, a long standing tradition on Memorial Day, which could be the latest casualty of federal budget cuts.

HONOLULU -

There's nothing quite like the honor of a military jet flyover.

The sheer power thundering in the skies can shake you to the core.

But the Hawaii Air National Guard broke the bad news to the city last week:  Don't plan on a flyover for this year's Memorial Day service.

"We just got a request in today, from a veteran's organization in Maui. Normally they like to have a flyby too, for Memorial Day. That's not looking very optimistic," said, public affairs officer Lt. Col. Charles Anthony.

War veterans are lamenting the loss of what has become a longstanding tradition.

"It's sad, because we have to honor those who went before us and died for our country, yeah," said Bay Watanabe.

Watanabe, a member of the American Legion, the largest Veterans organization in the world, helps to give tours at Punchbowl Cemetery.

"I like doing it because I like to  give back to those who didn't come back, " Watanabe said.

This Memorial Day he plans to attend ceremonies at the State Veteran’s Cemetery in Kaneohe where many of his friends are buried.

But others who make the trip to Punchbowl for the pomp and circumstance may miss what many consider a key ceremonial element.

Event planners are checking whether other aircraft could stand in for the jets, but it's a big "if." 

At this point, the city says it is exploring all its options. But Memorial Day is just two months away.

The Guard also usually fills requests for a military jet flyby on Veterans Day and for Dec. 7 at the Pearl Harbor Arizona Memorial, but there’s no word on the fate of those just yet.

In order to maximize resources, the flyovers are tied to training,  but with the budget woes handing overhead, a bigger concern over  its air defense mission  is looming.

"With the flight hours cut, it is going to be tougher and tougher for our pilots to maintain their proficiency," said Anthony.

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