Common Elements of the Military Funeral Rite
The United States government provides services for members of active and reserve Armed Forces who die while on active duty. Services include the preparation, dressing, casketing and transportation of remains. In many cases, the government makes arrangements with a contracted funeral home, or the family can choose and be reimbursed for making its own arrangements. Families must request a military funeral through the deceased’s branch of service. A military service may include both a chapel and graveside service, although it most commonly includes only the committal service at graveside.
• Military funerals must be specifically requested by family.
Removal of Remains
• No specific restrictions.
Preparation of Remains
• No specific mandates.
Dressing and Casketing of the Remains
• Choices are left up to the deceased’s family.
• This usually involves a military funeral cortege, which includes: band, escort (including firing party and bugler), color bearers and guard, clergy, caisson and casket bearers, honorary casket bearers (if any), and family and friends.
• The arrangements may include a chapel and graveside service — most commonly graveside only.
• If graveside, the military chaplain or clergy conducts the service. Following scripture reading and prayers, the firing party fires a 21-gun salute. The bugler plays “Taps” during the folding of the flag, which is then presented to the spouse or next of kin.
Veteran rites are nonsectarian and are similar to the military funeral, except with a smaller number of participants.
• The funeral cortege is much smaller and includes: chaplain, bugler, color bearers and guards, commander of the post, 7-person firing squad and casket bearers.
• The flag is held waist-high by members of the veteran’s organization during the committal service, and following the service the members fold it and present it to the spouse or next of kin.
• If fewer than 21 veteran members are present, the funeral home staff may be called upon to perform some of the functions.
Use of the United States Flag
• Closed Casket: Center the flag on the casket so that the blue is at the head and over the left shoulder of the deceased.
• Half Couch Casket: Arrange the flag in three layers (10 inch folds) to cover the closed half of the casket. The blue field should be the top layer and should be positioned on the deceased’s left. Tuck the white margin along the hoist of the flag under, so that only the blue field and the stripes show.
• Full Couch Casket: Fold the flag into a triangle and place it in the casket cap just above the left shoulder of the deceased, with the blue stars facing outward.
• Correct Method for Folding the Flag:
1. Fold the lower striped section of the flag over the blue field.
2. The folded edge is then folded over to meet the striped edge.
3. A triangle fold is then started by bringing the striped corner of the folded edge to the open edge.
4. The outer point is then turned inward parallel with the open edge to form a second triangle.
5. Triangle folding is continued until the entire length of the flag is folded in the triangle shape of a cocked hat with only the blue field visible.
Other Flag Guidelines: -Never lower the flag into the grave. –
Never allow the flag to touch the ground.
Never use the flag as a covering or drape for an item to be unveiled. –
Never allow the flag to be torn, soiled or damaged.
Never placed anything on top of the flag (such as flowers).
Never attach anything to the flag.
Never use the flag to hold, carry or deliver anything. –
Do not display a flag if it is badly worn, torn or damaged.
If a flag is transported, it must be either folded and secured in a shipping receptacle or draped over the casket inside the shipping receptacle.