Shifting Traditions for Veterans and Funeral Services

Funeral services

Funeral services for military veterans are increasingly seeing some shifts in how they are performed that are generational and may perplex older people who are used to more traditional military funerals.

Veterans Day (also known as Armistice Day) was first observed after the end of World War I in 1919. It was the first time that deaths of military veterans were acknowledged in a national way. The brutality of injuries and magnitude of death during the Great War highlighted the extreme level of sacrifice that is demanded of those who serve in the military.

Veteran’s Day was made a national holiday in 1938 and became a federal holiday in 1967. It gives the nation an opportunity to honor all deceased, former, and current members of the military. Cemetery visits are common, as are adding keepsakes or fresh flowers to gravesites.

Many traditions remain in funeral services for military veterans. However, there are some distinct differences between the funeral services that are performed for pre-Baby Boomer and post-Baby Boomer military veterans after they die.

Many older military veterans still have full and traditional military funeral services. However, many Gen X, Millennial, and Gen Z military veterans are skipping the traditional funeral services that include a visitation, funeral service, graveside service, and burial. Instead, they are opting for just a brief graveside service if they are being buried. Veterans who are under 55 are more likely than those over 55 to be cremated instead of buried.

Interestingly, many military veterans still choose a religious service of some kind for their funeral service, whether it’s a full, traditional service or a graveside service. Very few choose the increasingly popular – among the younger, general population – humanist funeral. Humanist funerals are non-religious celebrations of life that center on friends and family gathering to honor the life of the deceased.

Honorably-discharged military veterans are entitled to veteran funeral benefits through the Veterans Administration (VA). A DD-214 (official military separation order) is required and should be given to the funeral home director, who will make the necessary arrangements with the VA.

Honorably-discharged military veterans can be buried in a national cemetery, with burial and a gravestone provided at no charge. Some military veterans may also be entitled to financial funeral benefits. The funeral home director can assist the family with determining if their loved one may be eligible.

The presentation of the American flag to a family member during a military veteran’s funeral is a long-standing military tradition. Additional flags for other family members of the deceased veteran can be requested as well, enabling everyone to participate in the flag ceremony at the funeral.

Another military funeral tradition is the playing of “Taps.” While the local National Guard members once played this live at the funeral, today a recorded version is played.

The military tradition of rifle salutes, which were a standard part of military funerals in the past, have now been reserved just for military retirees and military members who die during combat.

Older military veterans tend to plan their funeral services in advance. Younger military veterans, however, tend to emulate their civilian peers by not planning their funeral services in advance. This is one of the direct results of our society’s obsession with avoiding talking about death, thinking about death, and putting off death as long as possible.

For additional information about funeral services, our empathetic and knowledgeable staff at Hopler & Eschbach can assist you. You can stop by our funeral home at 483 Chenango St., Binghamton, NY 13901, or you can contact us today at (607) 722-4023.