Military Honors

“Honoring Those Who Served” is a program through the Department of Defense (DOD) that helps families memorialize the military service of their loved one.

A Military Funeral Honor Ceremony is free to eligible Veterans but must be requested by the family in advance. The request form can be obtained from your funeral home or by using the link attached: http://www.militaryfuneralhonors.osd.mil

What is included in a Military Funeral Honor Ceremony?

  • Two or more uniformed military persons, with at least one being a member of the Veteran’s branch of service (Army, Navy, etc.).
  • Optional – playing Taps, flag folding, flag presentation, rifle detail, color guard, pallbearers, caisson, military flyover.
  • Additional memorabilia: Presidential Memorial Certificates, headstones, markers and medallions

Who is eligible?

  • Military members on active duty.
  • Military retirees.
  • Honorably discharged Veterans of any war.
  • Members and former members of the Selected Reserve.
  • Other US Veterans who served at least one term of enlistment and separated under conditions other than dishonorable.

Who is NOT eligible?

  • Individuals discharged under dishonorable conditions.
  • Individuals sentenced to death or life imprisonment without parole for a federal or state capital offense.
  • Other explicit circumstances.

Playing Taps

Due to budgetary constraints, it is not always possible to have a military bugler present at a funeral. Instead, a quality recorded version of Taps can be used. The DOD, using technology, developed the Ceremonial Bugle. This electronic device fits inside the bell portion of a bugle and contains a recording of Taps as performed at an actual ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. A service man or woman holds the bugle, as if playing it, while the recording is played.

Burial Flags

A United States flag is provided free of charge to drape the casket or accompany the urn of a deceased Veteran. Flags can be obtained them from a funeral home, the U.S. Post Office, or any VA regional office.

Eligibility for honorably discharged Veterans:

  • Veteran who served during wartime
  • Veteran who died on active duty after May 27, 1941
  • Veteran who served after January 31, 1955
  • Peacetime Veteran who was discharged or released before June 27, 1950
  • Certain persons who served in the organized military forces of the Commonwealth of the Philippines while in service of the U.S. Armed Forces and who died on or after April 25,1951.
  • Certain former members of the Selected Reserves

Who receives the burial flag?

Only one flag is provided and the next-of-kin is the usual recipient; however, if there is no next-of-kin, a friend who makes the request can receive it. Some families choose to donate the flag to national cemeteries where they are flown on patriotic holidays.

Flag Presentation Protocol and Flag Folding:

The Flag Presentation Protocol and Flag Folding ceremony are very moving and can be very meaningful for family members. The U.S. flag is draped over a closed casket with the union blue field at the head and over the left shoulder of the deceased.

After Taps is played, the flag is folded into a symbolic tri-cornered shape, which requires 13 folds representing the 13 original colonies. When the flag folding is complete, only the blue stars can be seen. The tri-cornered shape is reminiscent of the hat worn by the Patriots of the American Revolution.

The flag is then presented to the next-of-kin using the following standardized verbiage: “On behalf or the President of the United States, (the United States Army; the United States Navy; the United States Coast Guard or the United States Air Force), and a grateful Nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.”

How should the Burial Flag be displayed?

The flag can be damaged by weather and should not be displayed outside. Families can purchase special frames to store the flag at most picture frame or craft stores.

Military Flyovers

Military Flyovers are not covered under the Military Funeral Honor Ceremony but can be requested by families for eligible Veterans. The following link explains the eligibility requirements and how to apply: https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/mfh/getLinks.do?tab=Fly

Burial At Sea

The Burial At Sea program is performed off a United States Navy vessel when it is deployed at sea. Family members are not allowed to be present. Family members receive notification from the commanding officer of the date, time, and longitude and latitude of when the committal service took place.

National and Veteran Cemeteries by state http://www.cem.va.gov/cems/listcem.asp/

Presidential Memorial Certificates:

President John F. Kennedy initiated this program in March, 1962. The Department of Veterans Affairs is responsible for obtaining these engraved paper certificates signed by the President of the United States.

Verbiage:

“The United States of American honors the memory of ____. This certificate is awarded by a grateful nation in recognition of devoted and selfless consecration to the service of our country in the Armed Forces of the United States.”

Eligibility:

Recipients are the next-of-kin and loved ones of honorably discharged deceased Veterans.

Application:

Applications can be downloaded from the following link:
http://www.va.gov/vaforms/va/pdf/VA40-0247.pdf

Completed applications and a copy of the Veteran’s discharge and death certificates must be submitted in person at any VA regional office or by U.S. mail. Applications will not be accepted via email.

Headstones, Markers and Medallions:

The Department of Veteran’s Affairs is responsible for providing upon request, at no charge to the applicant, a government headstone or marker to eligible deceased Veterans. If a grave is marked with a privately purchased headstone, a marker or medallion can be affixed to supplement the stone. Arrangements and fees for placement in a private cemetery are the responsibility of the family, not the VA.

Eligibility: http://www.cem.va.gov/cem/hmm/eligibility.asp
Additional information: http://www.cem.va.gov/cem/hmm/

Burial and Plot-Internment Allowances:

Eligible Veterans may receive partial reimbursements towards burial and funeral costs.
http://www.benefits.va.gov/BENEFITS/factsheets/burials/Burial.pdf

Eligibility when death is NOT service related:

  • The Veteran was discharged under conditions other than dishonorable AND
  • You have not been reimbursed by another government agency or some other source, such as the deceased Veteran’s employer AND
  • You paid for a Veteran’s burial or funeral
  • In addition, at least ONE of the following conditions must be met:
  • The Veteran died because of a service-related disability OR
  • The Veteran was receiving VA pension or compensation at the time of death OR
  • The Veteran was entitled to receive VA pension or compensation, but decided not to reduce his/her military retirement or disability pay OR
  • The Veteran died while hospitalized by VA, or while receiving care under VA contract at a non-VA facility, OR
  • The Veteran died while traveling under proper authorization and at VA expense to or from a specified place for the purpose of examination, treatment, or care, OR
  • The Veteran had an original or reopened claim pending at the time of death and has been found entitled to compensation or pension from a date prior to the date of death, OR
  • The Veteran died on or after October 9, 1996, while a patient at a VA approved state nursing home

Application form:
http://www.vba.va.gov/pubs/forms/VBA-21-530-ARE.pdf