Funeral Etiquette: Military Funerals

funeral etiquette military funeralWhen 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.

What to Expect During the Ceremony at a Military Funeral

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.

Saluting Etiquette During a Military Funeral

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.

8 Responses to “Funeral Etiquette: Military Funerals”

  1. From Ray Rauanheimo

    Respectfully submitted: Regarding: 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.
    The Flag Code states that the flag is never to be used as a receptacle, so we do not slip casings into the flag after the volleys.
    Major R M Rauanheimo, USA Retired
    Military Funeral Honors Team in Pennsylvania

  2. From Une Belle Vie Customer Service

    Ray –
    Thank you for taking the time to post your comment. The article has been updated, and please reach out of you have any additional information to share. We truly appreciate your service and your knowledge!

  3. From Terri

    Another correction. One does not place their hat over their heart.
    Instead people should rest the hat on the shoulder holding the tip of the bill with the tips your fingers, because it is always hand to heart.
    Hats are not living tissue, however, if person lost hand the prosthetic should be placed on the heart.

  4. From Ridley Fitzgerald

    It’s good to learn about military funerals. I love the fact that anyone who served in the armed services is entitled to one of these funerals. My dad served, and I know he would appreciate being recognized after he dies.

  5. From Toyo Clement

    We had a funeral in Seattle for a fallen police officer yesterday. During the wait for the funeral to start there were several changing of the uniformed officers standing on either side of the flagged casket. Each time a new set of officers from different jurisdictions and ranks of military came up they did a normal one handed slow salute and then they all did a double hand salute with both tips of fingers touching their hat brim. I have never seen this done before. Can anyone explain this ?

  6. From Une Belle Vie Customer Service

    Hi Toyo –
    It sounds like a beautiful ceremony. We believe you are describing the casket watch, but are not sure what the significance of the double-handed salute is. We’ll be awaiting the answer along with you, and will post back if we find it in our research.

  7. From Callum Palmer

    Thank you for the advice; after all, it is not every day that someone attends a military funeral so it helps to know what to expect and what is expected of you. After all, many people attending a military funeral for the first time might not know that only the other military members need to salute. This kind of information can be essential for making sure that the funeral stays professional and respectful.

  8. From Marie Swayze

    We were told when my father died that the family should stand, out of respect for the dead and their country during the playing of taps. I’ve not been able to find this fact written anywhere, but always stand for taps anyway. Does anyone know the answer to this?

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