What are Military Funeral Honors?

A summary of the military ceremonies veterans may receive after death

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The presentation of a folded American flag to the next-of-kin is just one of the honors the United States provides in recognition of its military dead.. Photo © Zigy Kaluzny/Getty Images

The men and women who put their lives on the line to defend our freedoms deserve the thanks of a grateful nation. Among the ways our country shows its appreciation for these sacrifices is by providing burial and memorial benefits to current and former members of the U.S. Armed Forces. This includes military funeral honors for every eligible military veteran, at the family's request. This article offers a summary of the military funeral honors ceremonies available to veterans, and who is eligible to receive them.

What are Military Funeral Honors?

The U.S. Department of Defense oversees and administrates the military funeral honors program, which provides dignified recognition of the service and sacrifice made by a deceased military veteran -- whether on active service or honorably discharged -- after he or she dies. These honors are provided at no cost to the family on behalf of a grateful nation.

Known as the "Honoring Those Who Served" program, or simply "military funeral honors," the services include the following, at a minimum:

• The presence of a two-person detail, at a minimum, in military uniform. At least one of these individuals will represent the deceased's parent branch of military service, i.e., Army, Navy, Marines, etc.

The playing of "Taps," either via a live bugler or via a special "ceremonial bugle" that plays a recorded version of the song electronically. (The recording was taken from an actual burial at Arlington National Cemetery, the nation's premier national cemetery for members of the U.S.

Armed Forces.)

• The ceremonial folding of the American flag and presentation to the next-of-kin or appropriate family member by the uniformed individual representing the deceased's parent branch of military service.

Are Other Military Funeral Honors Available?

As noted above, every eligible military veteran is entitled to a uniformed military detail, the playing of "Taps," and the folding/presentation of the American flag to the next-of-kin or appropriate family member, at a minimum.

Additional military funeral honors exist, however, but cannot be guaranteed due to limitations on available personnel and resources. These additional honors might include:

• A rifle detail
• A flag-bearing color guard
• Service-connected pallbearers
• A caisson to carry the deceased
• A flyover by military aircraft

Again, please note that the availability of any of these additional military funeral honors is subject to the availability of personnel and resources. Therefore, while families may request these services for the committal of loved ones, there is no guarantee that your funeral provider, cemetery or the federal government can provide them.

Who is Eligible for Military Funeral Honors?

In general, anyone who served in the U.S. Armed Forces and died either during active duty or after he or she was honorably discharged is eligible for military funeral honors. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, families may request military funeral honors for the following deceased loved ones:

• Military members who died while on active duty or in the Selected Reserve

• Former military members who served on active duty or in the Selected Reserve and were discharged under other than dishonorable conditions

• Former military members who completed at least one term of enlistment or period of initial obligated service in the Selected Reserve and were discharged under other than dishonorable conditions

In addition, the U.S. federal government has authorized military funeral honors for certain other military and civilian groups, such as the American Merchant Marines during World War II, and members of the National Guard. For more information about a veteran's eligibility for military funeral honors, please visit the DOD's eligibility page; a PDF listing other eligible military and civilian groups is available here.

Related Articles:
Veterans Death, Burial & Memorial Benefits
10 Ways to Honor a Deceased Veteran on Memorial Day
10 Ways to Honor a Soldier on Veterans Day
Words of Inspiration: Soldiers

Sources:
"Military Funeral Honors: Eligibility." U.S. Department of Defense. Retrieved May 10, 2014. https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/mfh/getLinks.do?tab=Eligible

"Recognized Groups Under Public Law 95-202." U.S. Department of Defense. Retrieved May 10, 2014. https://www.dmdc.osd.mil/mfh/docs/Recognized_Groups_Under_Public_Law_95_202.pdf

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