A military funeral is a memorial service afforded to veterans, soldiers, marines and other military notables. Families can choose to incorporate military funeral honors into the service. We’re often asked questions related to paying for the military funeral honors and the funeral itself.
Does the military pay for funerals for veterans
One of the most-frequently asked questions we get from families of veterans is, does the military pay for funerals for veterans? The short answer is no, the Veterans Administration does not provide any payment for funeral services.
However, there are several benefits and recognition markers that veterans may be eligible to receive. We’ve compiled a list of the standard benefit offerings on our website. In some cases, you must apply to qualify. All the necessary application forms are linked here.
Military funeral honors
Draping the American flag on a casket: The blue section of the flag rests at the head of the casket, over the left shoulder of the deceased. This custom began in the late 18th century, when a flag covered a body as it was taken from the battlefield.
Flag folding: The flag folding ceremony represents the principles on which our country was founded. Each fold is a symbol, beginning with the symbol of life and concluding with the 13th fold, where the stars are uppermost and serve to remind us of our national motto, “In God We Trust.”
Performance of Taps: Taps typically plays at the conclusion of a military funeral using a single bugle, either performed by a bugler or recorded in advance.
Three-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 notified the other side that the deceased bodies were removed, and they were ready to resume the battle.
Other military funeral honors may be included for high-ranking officers, such as full Colonel and above.
The presence of a riderless horse: By tradition, the riderless horse follows the casket. It is a symbol of a fallen leader, a warrior who would ride no more.
Musical honors: An escort military band and platoon may be present at the funeral of a high-ranking officer.
Aerial flyover: This typically occurs 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 on the left side of the caisson. This tradition evolved from horse-drawn caissons moving artillery ammunition and cannons. Riderless horses carried provisions.
Military funeral service guidelines are governed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). 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 want to check if you or a loved one qualifies for a military funeral, you should contact the Department of Veterans Affairs, or visit here.
Phaneuf’s funeral arrangers assist families with various aspects of a military funeral:
- Applying for monetary benefits from the VA
- Scheduling and arranging military honors
- Coordinating with federal and state VA cemeteries
- Obtaining a flag for the service
- Ordering the veteran’s cemetery marker
A shift in military funeral traditions
We’re experiencing a change in military funerals between pre- and post-Baby Boomer generations of veterans.
Older veterans are more likely to have a full funeral service, with visitation and graveside burial, while younger veterans, from Gen X and Millennials to Gen Z, are more likely to have a brief military observance at the gravesite, forgoing the funeral home entirely. Veterans aged 50 and younger also often choose a cremation option over traditional burial.
Having some religious aspects at a traditional funeral or just a basic graveside veterans burial service is very common for veterans of all ages. A full religious service at the funeral home or a church/house of worship is also a common element for deceased veterans.
A humanist funeral is a non-religious celebration of life, offering an opportunity for loved ones and friends to say goodbye and honor the life of the deceased. The service does not involve clergy. Humanist funerals are nearly non-existent for veterans who have services via Phaneuf.
Military funeral options
With Phaneuf, families of deceased veterans have options like burial in a veterans’ cemetery. American flags are a longtime tradition of military funerals, and Phaneuf has seen a sharp increase in the request of flags for children of the deceased veteran as well as the veterans’ parents, if they are still living. Requests for all children of the deceased veteran to be part of the flag ceremony at the funeral are also more common.
Due to budget cuts within the military itself, the traditional rifle salute is now reserved for military retirees and those who have died in action.
The Patriot Guard Riders (PGR) are a national group of veterans and non-veterans who volunteer to provide a motorcycle escort and/or flag line at funeral services. This option is not restricted to military funerals. The PGR are also known to protect attendees from disheartening words and actions of those who protest at funerals. The group formed to shield families from protests in a non-violent, non-confrontational way.
You can make a request for the PGR here. Once requested, a ride or flag line captain will be assigned and will coordinate details with the deceased’s family. There are currently about 300 riders in New Hampshire who cover more than 60 funeral services per year.
Older veterans more likely to plan
The choice of cremation has steadily grown in New Hampshire and across the country. This is partly due to a veteran cremation service generally costing less than a full, traditional funeral service. Phaneuf’s funeral directors have been working with the families of veterans for more than 100 years, and the trend of planning and pre-paying for a funeral decreases over the years with military veterans.
This could be due to a shift in the thinking about mortality. Post-Baby Boomers, even those in the military, are no more likely to plan for a funeral than civilians, despite young members of the military being 2.5 times more likely to die while serving than those who are not employed by the military (according to a 2007 study by Preston and Buzzell).
Many Americans say it’s important to have their end-of-life wishes known, but most of them do not do so until a health crisis occurs. It makes sense for military members to begin end-of-life planning, just as it does for all adults. Doing so alleviates frustration and confusion that family members face when they only have a couple of days to make important decisions. At the very least, it makes sense to write down some wishes and let loved ones know where they can find them when the time comes.