Funeral Honors for Deceased Veterans of Military Service

The tradition of providing military funeral honors has a long and illustrious history which began in ancient Greece and Rome. In this country, Memorial Day was instituted to remember those who perished during the Civil War. Nowadays, it is a time for us to pause and honor all the men and women who have served their country in the armed forces.

Military funeral honors for veterans have always been provided wherever possible. Now, however, the law requires that these services be conducted if the family requests their funeral director to arrange them for an eligible veteran. The basic ceremony is performed by an honors guard detail consisting of two members of the Armed Forces including one from the branch in which the veteran served. The ceremony includes the folding and presentation of the American flag to the next of kin and the playing of taps.

The Department of Defense provides military funeral honors to eligible veterans at no cost to the family. To be eligible, the deceased veteran must have been a military member on active duty; a military retiree, a member or former member of the Selected Reserve or served at least one term of enlistment and left the service with an honorable discharge.

A family can establish veteran eligibility with a DD Form 214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty. If this form is not available, any discharge document showing discharge other than dishonorable service can be used. Some county courthouses may have copies of the discharge. This information should be included when preplanning a veteran's funeral to make it simpler for the family to request this final honor.

In New York State, the Division of Military and Naval Affairs established a state honor guard to provide appropriate military honors to as many deceased New York veterans as possible. The Governor noted that "The brave men and women who served our country all over the world deserve our respect and eternal gratitude, and should be laid to rest with the honor and dignity they deserve."

The Department of Defense needs at least 48 working hours to process and implement a request for a funeral honors detail. The family's funeral director should be advised immediately if a Military Honors Ceremony is desired. He or she is very knowledgeable about arranging for this important part of the veteran's funeral, and can answer questions from family members. Please keep in mind that with our variable northeast weather, a military funeral may not be possible during a harsh winter.

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