Military funerals are held at funeral homes for veterans of the United States armed forces. While military funerals have many of the same features as traditional funerals, they do have some unique differences that pay honor to military veterans who have died.
If active-duty military members attend a military funeral, they will wear the dress uniform of their branch of service instead of wearing civilian clothes. Retired military veterans may or may not wear the dress uniform of the armed forces branch they served in.
However, both active-duty military personnel and retired military veterans will stand and salute at certain times during a military funeral, where everyone else will remain seated and quiet.
All American military veterans are eligible for a military funeral unless they were dishonorably discharged from the service. This includes veterans from the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, the Coast Guard, and the Marines who served at least one tour of duty.
Military funerals can be held at a state or national cemetery or at a private cemetery.
If the military funeral is held at a state or national cemetery, burial or inurnment is free, as is the placement of a grave marker. The spouse and dependent children of a military veteran who is buried in a state or national cemetery are also entitled to free burial and a grave maker there.
The funeral director will work with the local Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to coordinate a military funeral in a state or national cemetery. They will need a copy of the deceased military veteran’s official discharge orders (Form DD-214) to start the process.
If the military funeral is held at a private cemetery, a free grave marker will be provided by the VA, but the family of the deceased military veteran will be responsible for having the marker placed at the grave site.
Military funerals have several distinct features that make them different from traditional funerals.
One of these is the folding and presentation of the American flag to the military veteran’s family. The flag folding ceremony may be done by the honor guard of a local military base or national guard unit, or it may be done by a local veteran’s group.
The 12-fold flag ceremony done to exact specifications laid out by the military and it is full of symbolism that represents the values and ideals of the American military. Only one American flag is presented during the military funeral, but additional American flags can be requested by the military member’s immediate family. The funeral director can convey these requests to the VA.
The other two distinct events that happen during a military funeral are a rifle salute and the playing of “Taps.”
If the military veteran is being buried or inurned at a state or national cemetery, the military funeral will take place at a committal shelter within the cemetery. If the military veteran is being buried or inurned in a private cemetery, the military funeral will take place at the grave site.
If the military veteran is cremated and will not be inurned at a cemetery, the military honors portion of the funeral will be held outdoors (because of the rifle salute) during the funeral or memorial service.
If your loved one is a military veteran who served in any branch of the United States armed forces, a military funeral is a great way to honor their service to protect and defend America.