Military Funerals: Honoring the Honorable

Experiencing the death of a loved one is something that we all must face during our lifetimes. If you have ever attended a military funeral, you know that they stir up emotions deep inside your soul. Every American knows those hallowed notes of Taps as they echo into the future and conjure up memories of the past.

Preparing for a military funeral demands detailed information and specific steps to be taken. Those military members on active duty or in the Selected Reserve and former military members who served on active duty and received an honorable discharge qualify for military honors at their funeral. For a complete listing of those eligible for military honors, visit Military Funeral Honors.

Families are entitled to a flag folding, flag presentation, and the playing of Taps. However, in today's military, we have few bugle players. You can request one from your local high school band or church music group.

When you go into the funeral director's office, you will be asked many questions, including whether the deceased was a military member and, if so, whether he or she received an honorable discharge. The funeral director will call the nearest field office that processes requests for funeral honors. Each branch of military service has an office that processes these requests. Funeral directors can also log onto the Military Honors website and obtain information there.

At the service you will see a flag draped over the coffin. If you are having a chapel service, the flag will be pulled away from the head of the coffin and the coffin can be (if the family requests) open for viewing. There should not be a spray of flowers on top of the flag. If you wish to adorn the casket with flowers, request a crescent-shape arrangement from the florist. This is to be placed on the open lid of the coffin on the upper left corner.

At the gravesite a military detail (if available) will carry the coffin to the grave and prepare for honors. The honors will include your service (usually given by family clergy or family friend), military rifle salute (if available), folding of the flag, presentation of the flag, and the playing of Taps. Military honors are provided to the family at no cost.

Information about obtaining a government-issue headstone can be found at a site sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs and will walk you through the entire process.

Know in your heart that the nation grieves the loss of an honored veteran.

Content provided by Taya L. Cline

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