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Military Funerals Series – Military Funeral Planning

A military funeral is a distinct memorial service afforded to veterans, soldiers, marines, and other military notables. There are elements known as funeral honors that may be incorporated into the funeral service, if the family of the deceased should choose so.

Funeral honors:

  • Draping of the American Flag on the casket: The blue section of the flag is always placed at the head of the casket, over the left shoulder of the deceased. This custom started in the late 18th century, when a flag was used to cover the body as it was taken from the battlefield.
  • Flag folding: The flag folding ceremony represents the principles of which our country was originally founded. Each fold is a symbol, starting with the symbol of life.
  • Performance of Taps: Taps is often played at the conclusion of a military funeral using a single bugle, performed by a buglar or a recording of one.
  • 3-volley salute: The salute of three volleys came from an old battlefield custom. While at war, the two sides would cease fire to clear their fallen soldiers from the battlefield. Firing three volleys was to notify the other side that the deceased bodies had been properly cared for and they were ready to resume the battle.

Other Funeral Honors may be included in the funeral for high-ranking officers, such as full Colonel and above.

  • The presence of a rider-less horse: By tradition, the rider-less horse follows the casket. It is a symbol of a fallen leader, a warrior who would ride no more.
  • An escort military band and platoon may be present at the funeral of a high-ranking officer.
  • Aerial flyover: This is typically done with fighter jets in missing man formation.
  • A horse-drawn caisson: The caisson holds the body of the deceased and is pulled by horses that are all saddled, with riders only on the horses thar are on the left side of the caisson. This tradition has evolved from when horse-drawn caissons moved artillery ammunition and cannon. Riderless horses carried provisions.

Military funeral service guidelines were established and are governed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. All Veterans are eligible to receive this honor, with the exception of those who have been indicted for a capital crime or discharged dishonorably. If you would like to check if you or a loved one qualifies for a military funeral, you should contact the Department of Veterans Affairs, or visit the following website: http://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records.

Most funeral directors, including all of ours, are familiar with this type of funeral service and know the procedures regarding arranging for honor guards, national cemetery burials, and other elements of a military funeral. In fact, we pride ourselves in making sure vets and their families can take full advantage of the financial and recognition benefits provided by the VA at no charge to the family.

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