Funeral with Military Honors


I had the solemn opportunity this past weekend to attend my first funeral where the deceased was buried with military honors. The deceased was a member and former adjutant of the American Legion Post I belong to. I’d never had the opportunity to meet her, but I felt as Post Commander I needed to show my respects to the family.

The chapel service focused on her military service her service to the Order of the Eastern Star. The graveside service began with a caparisoned horse following the hearse. A casket team from the local military installation took the casket from the hearse to the gravesite, where a Sergeant Major and another senior NCO stood at the ends of the casket. The other members of the detail marched to the west end of the gravesite and three riflemen fired three volleys, followed by the bugler playing Taps. The senior NCO and the Sergeant Major saluted the flag-draped coffin and then folded the flag. The Sergeant Major then knelt in front of the next of kin to present the family the pall.

One other military aspect of the funeral was a Patriot Guard escort for the funeral procession from the funeral home to the cemetery. It was a very reverent ceremony and well executed.

A missed opportunity

This should not have been the first funeral I attended to have military honors. My grandfather died in 1997 and was buried without any recognition of his service, other than an mistyped obituary that cited him as a WWII veteran (he was in Germany during the Korean War). My recollection is that the local VA office could not find record of his service. His records were most likely lost during the 1973 fire at the National Personnel Records Center. Unbeknownst to the family (and forgotten by my grandmother), my grandfather had copies of his service records in a shoebox in his closet. I found them years later when I took an interest in his military service. He had his DD-214, his Honorable Discharge certificate, several official letters and pamphlets, letters from buddies and old girlfriends, and photos and coins from Germany and other parts of Eastern Europe.

After I found this treasure trove, I had my grandmother to request copies of his service records, to see if the archives actually had a copy. They did not, so next I put together a packet to send to the archives to rebuild his records. My grandmother has still not been presented with a flag in honor of his service, but hopefully now, his service will not be forgotten.

Prepare for your day

Each of us will leave this life to face our Creator in due time, and there are many things we need to do to prepare for that day. I’ll leave it to each of you to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, but I would offer some advice [1] to those of you who may be due military honors at your funeral:

  • Make it known that you want to be buried with honors.
  • Make sure you have your appropriate military records on file, and that your significant other (or whomever is handling your estate) knows where they can be found to prove your service. If you can’t find them now, request new copies.
  • If the archives doesn’t have them, work to rebuild your file from your copies.
  • Be involved with a veterans-related organization, such as the American Legion. Your comrades will likely be in contact with your family to ensure that you are properly honored.
  • Attend the services of other veterans who pass on before you. Show their families how much their service means to you.

Resources:

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[1] I am not a lawyer and I am not offering legal advice.

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