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Everything You Need to Know About Veteran Funeral Traditions

At this time of year, there is a sense of gratitude in the air, particularly towards our veterans.

Veterans and their families are familiar with service and sacrifice. When it comes to arranging a final farewell, understanding the significance and customs of a veterans funeral service is critical.

Benefits of Military Funerals

Honoring veterans through a military funeral provides a sense of dignity and distinction for their service and sacrifice. The government provides a free, half-hour military funeral service as a show of respect, gratitude, and honor. Families can also choose to hold private ceremonies and request particular elements to make the service special. Funeral etiquette is also incredibly important during these ceremonies and should be adhered to as a sign of respect for the fallen and their families.

Typical Military Funeral Honors

During a military funeral, we observe the playing of "Taps," a solemn melody recognizing the bravery and sacrifice of the service member. A rifle detail, uniformed service members presenting the flag, and the 21-gun salute are also key elements of a military funeral. Each of these elements represents the highest level of respect earned by the service member and symbolizes their service.

Customs and Traditions

It’s important to recognize the variety of customs and traditions that make military funerals so special. By delving deeper into the meaning behind each element, we can better understand the sacrifice and service these individuals have made for our country.

The Firing Party

The firing party is a distinguished honor for service members who have passed away. The party consists of seven members, with three members firing rifles in unison three times at the end of the service. This solemn gesture signifies the end of a soldier's duty and the passing of their legacy to the living. It is a poignant reminder that the memory of those who died for our country should always be honored and remembered.

The Missing Man Table

The Missing Man Table is an incredibly moving aspect of military funerals. It represents the honor, service and sacrifice of those who will never come home. The table consists of a white tablecloth, a plate of lemon and salt, an inverted glass, a single rose, and a place setting for one. These five elements symbolize hope for those missing or lost, the tears shed by the families of the missing, the bitter salt of those family members still waiting, the inverted glass signifying the service member's inability to sit and toast with their comrades, the rose representing the love of family and friends, and the empty place setting symbolizes the missing service member's presence.

Military Funeral Burial

Funeral officiants conduct the burial of a veteran with great precision and respect. An honor guard and pallbearers transport the casket to the gravesite. They position the flag-draped casket over the grave, and the service members fold the flag with military precision. They then present the folded flag to the family, who can choose to keep it or display it as a tribute to their loved one.

Flyovers and Burial at Sea

For those who served in the air or navy, families can opt for a flyover or burial at sea with the Navy or Coast Guard. These options provide a unique way to commemorate a service member's service and offer a fitting tribute. They honor the service of the deceased and provide an opportunity for families to commemorate their loved ones’ service.

Legacy of Military Funerals

Military funerals have a lasting impact on those who experience them. For families, they provide a sense of closure and comfort in knowing that their loved one has been honored and remembered for their sacrifice. For communities, they serve as a reminder of the price of freedom and the bravery of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. They offer us a chance to honor and commemorate those who have served our country and kept us safe. Learn more about what to expect from a military funeral at the VA’s website.

Each element of a military funeral ceremony is symbolic of honor and sacrifice, paying tribute to the brave men and women who have given so much for our freedom. By understanding the meaning behind each element, we can better appreciate the sacrifices made by these individuals and their families. It's essential to honor those who have served our country and to ensure that their legacy lives on in the memories of those who knew them and the communities they served.

To learn everything you need to know about writing a veteran's obituary, take a look at our article: Including the Right Stuff in a Veteran’s Obituary.