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With Veteran Funerals, Some Traditions are Shifting

Veteran’s Day a.k.a. Armistice Day was first observed 99 years ago in 1919 in the United States, though it did not become a national holiday until 19 years later in 1938 (and was officially named Veteran’s Day in 1954).

Veteran’s Day is an opportunity to honor all current and deceased veterans of the military. It’s typically a day when cemetery visits are up, with loved ones adding fresh flowers or special keepsakes to gravesites.

There are several traditions that are still part of funerals for veterans, though funeral directors at Phaneuf Funeral Homes and Crematorium have been seeing a change in military funerals between pre- and post-Baby Boomer generations of veterans.

Older veterans are still more likely to have a full funeral service, with visitation and graveside burial, while younger veterans, from Gen X and Millennials to even Gen Z, are more likely to have a brief military observance at the gravesite, forgoing the funeral home entirely. Veterans aged 50 and younger are also more likely to be cremated.

Religious Service More Common For Vets

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.

Having some religious aspects at a traditional funeral or just a basic graveside veterans burial service is very common for veterans of all ages, and a full religious service at the funeral home or a church/house of worship is also a common element for deceased veterans.

Military Traditions

With Phaneuf, families of deceased veterans have such options as burial in a veterans’ cemetery, and there may be some financial veterans funeral benefits also available. American flags have long been a traditional element of military funerals, and Phaneuf has seen a sharp increase in the request of flags being available for all children of the deceased veteran as well as the veterans’ parents, if they are still living. Requests are also more common for all children of the deceased veteran to be part of the flag ceremony at the funeral.

Phaneuf can help arrange some of the honors typically associated with a military funeral. One item to note, 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.

Patriot Riders Available By Request

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, 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 was actually formed to shield families from protests in a non-violent, non-confrontational way.

Nick Marks heads up the New Hampshire branch of the PGR. Requests for local riders are typically made by calling Nick at (603) 305-9754 but can also be made via email. Once a request has been made, 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.

“Since our formation, the protests have stopped but our mission continues. We will continue to provide our services to show our veterans and their families that their sacrifice will not be forgotten. Should another group come along to try and protest or disrupt funerals, the Patriot Guard Riders will be ready to make sure that the families may grieve in peace,” Nick said.

The riders will participate in the Veterans Day Ceremony at the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery, located at 110 Daniel Webster Hwy, Boscawen, NH.

Older Veterans More Likely To Plan Ahead

Cremation has been steadily growing in New Hampshire and across the country, and this is partly due to a veteran cremation service generally being less expensive than a full, traditional funeral service. Phaneuf’s funeral directors have been working with the families of veterans for more than 100 years, and have seen the trend of planning and pre-paying for a funeral decreasing 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).

Our certified planning counselors encourage everyone – military or not – to begin thinking about funeral preparation, primarily to have your wishes be known, and to cause less of a burden on your surviving loved ones who carry the burden of making arrangements for those who have not planned ahead.

Retiring a Flag and Veterans Funeral Benefits

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