Military Funeral Honors and Traditions

Military Funeral Honors are centered in tradition and dignity. They are rich with symbolism and available for all veterans and military personnel who served their country honorably.

 Military Funeral Honors

Who Is Eligible for Military Funeral Honors?

Servicemen who died while in active duty or the reserves are eligible for military funeral honors, as are any veterans who were discharged under any condition except dishonorable. Veterans can have served in active duty or one term of enlistment in the reserves. Also eligible for funeral honors are members of the National Guard, Public Health Service (PHS) and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). More information on who is or isn’t eligible can be found here.


Dignified Transfer

When service members die in action, their bodies are laid in an aluminum case, which is embossed with an American flag and the seal of the Department of Defense. The case is then draped in a flag and the body is transferred to the Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. It is then taken in a solemn parade by way of hearse to the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center in Dover. Normally, the carry guard and family members will follow behind the hearse on foot. At the AFMAO, the body is dressed in full uniform and given all necessary burial preparations.


Rendering of Honors

At each transfer point through which the remains must pass, military personnel are stationed to render honors such as standing at attention and giving salutes. Military escorts are specially trained to render such honors. As is tradition, the body of the fallen service member will only ever travel feet-first. Honor guards are also assigned to honor the remains of every service member who died in active duty. These honor guards are small, comprised of a minimum of two military personnel. The military escort is relieved of duty when the service member’s body reaches the designated funeral home. The escort is not required to attend the funeral though they can if they wish.


Personal Effects

Items found in the fallen service member’s foot locker are cleaned, photographed, and catalogued. After that, they’re either shipped to the service member’s family, or if the effects were on the service member’s person at their time of death, they are handed over to the military escort. The military escort can then present these items in person to the fallen service member’s family.


The Military Funeral Ceremony

Some aspects of the military funeral ceremony may differ between individuals depending on whether or not they served in active duty, retirement versus discharge, what rank they held, etc. But the fundamental elements of the ceremony are the same for all. Most of these proceedings take place at the grave site rather than at the funeral.


  • A hearse or sometimes a horse-drawn caisson brings the service member’s body to the grave site. The body is contained in a casket, which is then draped in an American flag.
  • If the service member or his/her family wishes, a chaplain can address the crowd.
  • After the committal service, the honor guard will approach the grave and unfold the American flag over the casket.
  • As the flag is lifted taut, three volleys are fired by a firing party usually comprised of seven persons. Sometimes, leftover shells from the volleys are tucked into the folded flag later.
  • After the volleys, the bugler will sound “Taps.”
  • The honor guard will then fold the American flag twelve times in the traditional method, the end result being a triangular shape showing the stars. Learn the symbolism behind each of the twelve folds here.
  • Lastly, the highest ranking officer present may show the folded flag to the family of the deceased, salute, and give a statement if they wish.


Showing Our Thanks and Devotion

At Low VA Rates, we are grateful every day for the sacrifices made by those who have fallen. Whether they died old or young, at home or far away, we are indebted to their service. In return, we hope to provide opportunities for veterans and their families, both in the mortgage industry and in the path to home ownership. To learn more about what we do to reach out to the veteran community and show our appreciation, visit our website or follow us on social media.





5 thoughts on “Military Funeral Honors and Traditions

  1. I’ve been in a few burial at sea services. It’s like there are all these past service members “spirits” all around you. I always get a tingly feeling, and made me all the prouder to serve. Reminds one of what we are/were fighting for! God bless America!

  2. My husband was a Vietnam veteran who died as a result of the effects of Agent Orange. When we arrived at Arlington with his ashes I had no idea what to expect but I did feel this is where he would receive the honor he deserved. I was not disappointed- the ceremony was beautiful, the chaplain was wonderful and the Arlington Lady was so kind and gracious. I was assigned a gentleman who walked with me through all of it and he was beyond attentive, kind, patient and respectful. Our entire family came away knowing we had made the right decision for his and my resting place. I have returned numerous times and I THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for this wonderful hallowed ground. He lies in Section 55, Grave 5497.

  3. I just went to a pilot trading classmate of mine ‘s service who was shot down over North Vietnam fifty years ago and was just identified and his remains were sent home to full military honors funeral. It was the most moving experience I have ever seen. At the end of his service and the missing man flyby, out of nowhere a bugler played taps from behind us and it was the climax of the service and I will never ever forget the emotions I felt.

  4. My Father served in WW11 and the service was awesome and memorable . He was my Hero……love ya Dad
    James C. Lightbody Sr.

  5. THAT was a beuitufal story. Thanks for sharing it with me today. I wish your mom(and dad) well and will keep them in my thoughts and prayers. Peace and love my friend.

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