Military Honors for Funerals

As of Jan 1, 2000, by law all eligible veterans are entitled to military funeral honors signifying America’s gratitude for their honorable service. Upon request, two service members will fold and present the American flag to surviving family members and a bugler will sound “Taps.” If a bugler is not available, a high-quality CD will be used.

At least one member of the funeral detail will be from the deceased veteran’s parent military service. The other may be from the same service or another military service. Other authorized providers, such as members of a veteran’s organization, may be used to augment the military detail. No particular rank is specified in the law, but the services by tradition have ensured the person presenting the flag to the family is at least the grade of the deceased veteran.

While many veterans think of military funeral honors as a right, the honors grew from custom, not DoD policy. Until the new law, nothing actually said the honors were a mandatory function. Congress responded to public concerns by writing the provision into the fiscal 2000 Defense Authorization Act, requiring the military to perform at least a basic level of funeral honors upon request for all eligible veterans.

By law, veterans are now eligible for military funeral honors if they served in the active military and were discharged under other than dishonorable conditions, or if they were a member or former member of the Selective Reserve. Veterans are ineligible if they are convicted of federal or state capital offenses and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole or receive the death penalty. DoD’s new policy calls for funeral directors, rather than families, to contact the military. Military funeral honors must be requested—they are not provided automatically. For more information about funeral honors, visit the DoD Web site or call toll free to 1-877-MIL-HONR.

This information came from a Defense Press Service article.