When a member of your family or a friend dies will serving their beloved country, most families opt to have a military funeral, which means a lot of ceremony and tradition on top of the basic funeral traditions that come with most funerals and memorial services. What can you, your family and friends expect when it comes to all of the military traditions associated with their funerals and how can you be respectful during a military service?
Funeral with Military Honors
A funeral with military honors is one steeped in tradition and any member of the armed services in entitled to one upon their death. The military will provide an honor guard detail of at least two soldiers, one of which must be from the same military branch as the deceased. The deceased is provided with a flag that can be draped over the casket, folded properly by the honor guard and then ceremoniously presented to the next of kin. A military funeral always has Taps played by a bugler or on a stereo at the end of the funeral. If there are enough members of the honor guard present, three rifle volleys are fired and the casings are slipped into the folds of the folded flag.
During the Ceremony
Military funerals are solemn affairs and frequently, everyone in attendance, with the exception of immediate family, will remain standing for the duration to show respect. This does not mean you should dress casually, but do wear comfortable shoes and clothing that is also respectable mourning attire. Military funerals are not appropriate affairs for young children since they cannot stand still for the amount of time required for a proper military funeral and their eventual squirming and talking becomes a distraction. If you are unsure of what to do at the funeral, follow the lead of the chaplain conducting the service.
One of the biggest differences in a military funeral is the use of salutes to show respect for the fallen soldier and they should be observed in the following situations.
Military members should salute at the following points in any funeral involving the armed forces:
- When the hearse passes
- Whenever the casket is being moved (from the ceremony to the hearse, from the hearse to the gravesite)
- During rifle volleys
- While Taps is being played
- While the casket is being lowered into the grave
Nonmilitary friends and family need not salute, but should remove any hats and place it over their heart during these same instances. If they are not wearing hats, they should cover their heart with their right hand.
Your local funeral home will be able to make the request for a military funeral and they will help you navigate the red tape that comes with a military funeral as well to ensure that your loved one gets the honorable funeral that they deserve.