Final Salute with Military Funeral Honors

Final Salute with Military Funeral Honors

The Department of Defense (DOD) is responsible for military funeral honors. However, military downsizing during the late 80’s and 90’s resulted in difficulty in providing funeral honors. Consequently, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion were called upon to assist the DOD in their responsibilities, volunteering the operation of funeral honors for fallen veterans when the DOD could not.

Congress deemed this unsatisfactory in 1999 and enacted a law requiring the military services to provide funeral honors for eligible veterans (“Eligibility for Military Burial”).

If requested, the DOD is obligated to provide an honor guard comprised of at least two military members to conduct funeral honors for eligible veterans. At the very minimum, the honor company is required to perform a ceremony including the folding and presenting of the American flag to the next of kin and the playing of taps.

Meeting Military Honor Guards

Members of the honor guard are skilled in military drill and ceremonies. If requested, they can perform memorial honors at funerals of eligible veterans. Most military installations have an honor guard team. In most cases, military funeral honors are executed by individual honor guard teams stationed at many military bases.

Despite the military paying for their honor guard uniforms, equipment, and transportation expenses, military honor guards are generally volunteers that practice, drill, and perform at funerals while maintaining other full-time military jobs.

A minimum of two honor guards to perform at a veteran’s funeral is mandatory by law, but in most cases, the funeral company is comprised of four to seven members, contingent on the abilities of the local honor guard unit, accessible resources, and manpower. Other veterans’ services taking place in the same vicinity on the same day can also affect the honor guard availability.

Knowing What Honors are Provided

The DOD is obligated by law to play taps, fold the U.S. flag, and present the flag to the next of kin. Additional honors including honor guard pallbearers and a rifle volley may be available contingent on the resources accessible by the honor guard company and wishes of the family. Additional honors may include:

  • Taps: Taps is a traditional bugle call sounded at military funerals by an official bugler if available or by electronic means. The honor guard presents a final salute to the deceased veteran during the playing of taps.
  • Flag Folding: The U.S. flag is carefully taken from the casket and silently folded by the honor guard company. Once folded, the flag resembles a triangle, representative of the three-cornered hats worn by colonial soldiers during the Revolutionary War. The method used during the folding of the flag requires 13 folds that represent the original colonies and once the flag is completely folded no stripes are visible, leaving only the blue and stars.
  • Flag Presentation: After the flag is folded it is presented to an honor guard member in the same military branch as the deceased veteran who subsequently marches the flag to the next of kin and presents the flag to them. During the member’s presentation to the next of kin, they say, “As a representative of the United States Army (Air Force/Navy/Marine Corps/Coast Guard), it is my high privilege to present you this flag. Let it be a symbol of the grateful appreciation this nation feels for the distinguished service rendered to our country and our flag by your loved one.”

Provided there is no next of kin, the flag is presented to a friend of the deceased.

  • Pallbearers: If available, family members can request that members of the honor guard function as pallbearers and provide other funeral honors.
  • Rifle Volley: A rifle volley is a customary tradition in which three volleys of shots are fired in honor of the deceased veteran by members of the honor guard company. Rifle volleys are performed only if the family chooses.

Rifle volleys are fired from rifles and not guns, so they are not gun salutes. Seven or eight members comprise the firing team where each member fires three times.

The three volleys originate from a custom in which battle would temporarily stop for service members to clear their dead from the battlegrounds. When a side had successfully removed their dead, they fired three rifle volleys to signify the continuation of battle.

When the honor guard is finished with the volley, they generally fold three shell-casings into the flag before presenting it to the family.

  • Michael B Wilson
    Posted at 19:05h, 02 October Reply

    As a Marine veteran and member of the American Legion Honor Guard, our American Legion Post conducts full military honors (flag folding, Taps, and rifle volleys) for deceased veterans. If your funeral director does not offer this service to you, I suggest that you reach out to an American Legion Post for these services.

  • As day evinbton
    Posted at 19:19h, 21 September Reply

    I need help my father is a WW2veteran. He did not see a tion but worked in the office. He was stationed in Japan and not a honorable discharge. My question is this he wants a military furneral. . we already have a plot forbim. Where do I start to get info for this

  • Marikae E Worley Jones
    Posted at 17:16h, 16 May Reply

    My dad was denied his 21 gun volley because he did not have “retirement papers”. My dad was honorably discharged with a Staff Sgt rank, two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star! He was in Vietnam and saw two tours of that War. He should have gotten his volley!!!!! He got Taps and his Flag folded. I do not think it was right nor fair! My dad died Thursday, May 13, 2021 and was buried on the 15th. Birmingham,AL.

  • Major M H Morrow
    Posted at 21:36h, 08 April Reply

    Inserting 3 shell casings into the folded flag is against the US flag code and DoD regulations. The flag is never to be used as a receptacle for anything including rifle volley shell casings. Present yhem separately.

  • Terri Moon
    Posted at 02:25h, 30 March Reply

    What would be the appropriate way to acknowledge the presence of a military honor guard at an outdoor cemetery service If I don’t know the names of the individuals? We will have a printed program and would like to include a mention there to thank them, but I’m not sure of the correct wording. Thank you. for your help

  • Dan Stacy
    Posted at 20:05h, 07 December Reply

    to Laura. please contact the funeral director and request funeral honors or your local American Legion Post. they will provide the honors for your husband.

  • Larry Ray
    Posted at 03:24h, 16 November Reply

    I feel you have made those of us who use the digital bugle for military funerals feel we should be ashamed for doing this service for vets and their families..
    I am a veteran of The Marine Corps and have done TAPS for about 20 years now. I do it usually in concertt with rifle team and flag folders from our local VFW post.
    I have found nothing but acceptence and gratitude from familes and from area funeral directors. I am always always aware of fresh batteries and trial plays before a service.
    This is the coming thing. I have been to some funerals that a military funeral detail was in charge. Upon asking, the bugler readily told me that was all that was used now.
    Just a little respect for those of us trying to honorr our fallen brothers please….thank you

    Posted at 18:07h, 11 April Reply

    Derek Hartley is a content contributor at Veterans United Network. He writes about personal finance and homeownership for our nation’s military service members, veterans and their families.

  • Laura Quiocho
    Posted at 08:08h, 25 March Reply

    Who do I contact for my husband Volley for his services. He is a veteran here in Houston Texas. I heard they don’t always do it. I will not buried him till he gets all three. Taps flag volley

  • Mr. Justo Jay Ordonez
    Posted at 19:36h, 19 February Reply

    To Whom It May Concern, I’m Mr. Justo Jay Ordonez a Certified Peer Support Specialist and a Disabled Combat Veteran , employed at the Brooklyn Veterans Hospital, 800 Poly Place, Brooklyn, New York 11209 requesting your assistance in performing Taps for a fallen Veteran (Mr. FRANK SMITH) at Brown’s ME, 484 Washington Ave. Brooklyn, New York 11238 on Saturday, 02/29/2020 at 13:00 HRS.
    The son of the deceased is Mr. Lamont Smith,(347) 302-8713,he would be the point of contact.

  • Stacy Duckworth
    Posted at 18:44h, 28 January Reply

    My brother very recently passed and had 18 years in the Navy. He was cremated and his wife isn’t ready to make a decision regarding a military funeral yet. My parents and siblings would like to have a military type of memorial service. I realize that we would have to pay for it, but are there any resources we can reach out to for this?

  • قیمت کابین سونا جکوزی
    Posted at 14:54h, 19 January Reply

    Thanks for some other informative website. Where else may just I am getting that type of info written in such a perfect way? I have a challenge that I am just now working on, and I have been on the look out for such information.

  • Sandra becerra
    Posted at 22:57h, 17 January Reply

    My brother requested a military funeral with rifle salute we were told none were available. My brother has been cremated and will eventually be going overseas for his final resting place with his children. Is there any way we can have the full military funeral send off? Who do i contact so that his final wishes can be a reality.

  • TS
    Posted at 19:34h, 17 December Reply

    If a father’s 3rd and latest wife spouse is deceased and there is a blood related daughter from the first estranged marriage and a step daughter from the 3rd. Which one should be considered next of kin for the funeral decisions & ceremonial flag receipt?

  • Karen Boyd
    Posted at 19:56h, 30 November Reply

    I understand your hurt and frustration. Certainly your veterans deserved more. Often these honors are performed by volunteers who are not paid. They have other jobs, and do the best they can.

  • Michael Feery
    Posted at 16:18h, 08 November Reply

    Unfortunately when my father captain William H Feery died he didn’t get the military funeral in 1991 and I was quite upset back then and still feel that it needs to take place somehow. He served in The battle of the bulge and received a bronze star and the distinguished service cross. Maybe it can still happen before I pass.

  • Jean Marochak
    Posted at 18:31h, 03 October Reply

    Can military honors be bestowed after internment?

    • Jason
      Posted at 01:08h, 13 October Reply

      Jean, it is never too late to request military honors by a uniformed military professional team. They can be requested to come to an event and location of your friend’s choosing and perform memorial funeral honors, to include the playing of Taps, flag folding and presentation to family.

      Contact a Casualty Operations office at the military base closest to you, or the VA, and let the family of the vet know to have ready the proof of service and/or separation docs (DD214) of the WW2 veteran loved one.

  • Antonio s Casas
    Posted at 06:22h, 19 September Reply

    Is there any funeral services by us personnel in the philippines? In the event when a us serviceman died. Im not sure since there is no us military installation in the philippines that i lnow of that can perform this function

  • 'Kevin lewis
    Posted at 11:53h, 18 September Reply

    I see many posts of people contacting the VFW to render Honors. For my Father-in-Law, the funeral home arrange it with the local military base. We didn’t have to do anything except show the funeral director his discharge papers.
    We did have to find a bugler to play Taps because the base didn’t have one. We reached out to and they found someone within 30 minutes. Both the young men from the Honor Guard and the Bugler did a beautiful job..

  • Ramon Gonzalez
    Posted at 03:20h, 11 September Reply

    I’m a U.S. Army Veteran(combat medic)and am enquiring information about a WWII veteran(airborne infantry: africa, italy and liberating of last concentration camp; germany, at end of WWII)whom passed away, but did not receive military honors, at funeral. I’m interested in acquiring information, for veteran and his family. Any information, in giving this soldier this well-earned and much deserved military service, would be greatly appreciated. Thank you and Thank a Vet. Sincerly, Ramon.

  • Audrey Lee
    Posted at 13:42h, 04 September Reply

    Is it appropriate for family members to place roses on casket after the flag is folded? My BILis being buried this Friday Nov. 4th. A quick reply would be appreciated. Thank you.

  • Mindy Jollie
    Posted at 18:55h, 23 August Reply

    Thank you for explaining the honors provided at a veteran’s funeral. I didn’t realize that the honor guard can also act as pallbearers. My friend recently lost her husband overseas and will need to put on a full veteran funeral for him. We’ll have to help her get the funeral set up properly.

  • Vikki B
    Posted at 01:34h, 12 August Reply

    On the case of a cremation when there is no casket or burial, what happens for the flag and is there a way to get the volley at a memorial?

  • Julie Rodriguez
    Posted at 21:06h, 21 July Reply

    How do I schedule to have the VA be part of my Marine Veteran funeral? Toledo, Ohio
    He passed this afternoon 7/21/19

    Posted at 00:39h, 24 June Reply

    Our 92 year old father will be honored next weekend at the home where he lived. He was cremated. This seems minor, but how do we prepare the space for this ceremony? It will be on the upper deck in the back yard. Chairs for the family, of course. Do they march in, file in? We want to do this right.

  • Rebecca L Jones
    Posted at 18:54h, 21 June Reply

    My dad was a Vietnam vet and served from 59 to 68. His brother had taps, but he wants bagpipes, how would we go about that?

  • Deanna Boone
    Posted at 18:01h, 02 June Reply

    Who can I contact to make a complaint? My father passed away and the Navy Honor Guard was supposed to come and they didn’t show up because it was drizzling rain. They didn’t call or anything. My father was a Navy vet and served in Vietnam, he had a right to his military Honors and didn’t get them!!

  • Chris Paxton
    Posted at 04:32h, 27 May Reply

    After reading this article I am even more upset. Yesterday we buried my grandfather who was over 98 years old and served in WW2.

    The flag ceremony was conducted by high school ROTC members and we were told by our local VFW chapter that they could not find anyone to do anything else. So no taps or honor guard.

    While we can’t “redo” my grandfathers funeral, we cant let this happen again. What can I do to help educate our local VFW and funeral home????

  • Matthew
    Posted at 23:10h, 06 May Reply

    Is there a way to find the names of the men that did the honors at my fathers funeral, the one did the most amazing speech and they were the best men i’ve seen to do the honors in the past few years and i want to thank them

  • Ed Rhoades
    Posted at 07:02h, 30 March Reply

    Would a WW2 Army Air Corps veteran get an Army or Air Force honor guard? Asking out of curiosity as my grandfather is 97 and still kicking.

  • Kelley Compton
    Posted at 00:24h, 14 March Reply

    My father passed and was an Airforce vet. The service is this Saturday and I don’t know who to contact. Please let me know if there is anything that can be done.

    Thank you,
    Kelley Compton

  • RM
    Posted at 02:47h, 03 March Reply

    Why is the family not allowed to watch the casket being buried? I understand the Soldier’s being there but why can the family not be there too? I just found this out and it really bothers me because my husband is ex military and the thought of me not being there to watch makes me upset. We talked about this because his friend died last week and I noticed the family left before he was actually buried.

    • Dan
      Posted at 22:57h, 12 March Reply

      Check with the cemetery in question. I have been to a funeral that didn’t allow the family to be there during the lowering of the casket (I was told I could stay behind to watch, but it could be several hours, as the team that does that, hadn’t arrived yet). Another funeral I recently attended, the casket was lowered while everyone was still there, and anyone that choose to, could take a handful of dirt or a rose (that had decorated the casket), and toss it into the grave, as a symbol of closing. So ask at your cemetery for the rules, and the rule exceptions based on religious preference.

    • 'Kevin lewis
      Posted at 11:48h, 18 September Reply

      I’m an architect and a veteran and have had the honor of working on three veteran cemeteries. The reason they use a committal shelter for the service rather than graveside is because of the near constant flow of funerals that happen in a day. The cemetery will open a section for that days burials and as the services happen, they will begin burying them one by one. Newer cemeteries bury two deep. It’s difficult to have the family graveside because of timing and safety.
      If based on religious reasons, the family needs to be graveside to actually participate in the burial, then the cemetery director can make an accommodation and the burial will take place in a separate part of the cemetery than where they are doing the burials for that day.

    • Deborah
      Posted at 19:14h, 18 September Reply

      I am sorry this happened to you and your family and friends. I work for a cemetery as a Family Service Counselor and we allow families to stay if they want to watch be it cremation or full burial. However, I always asked that question at the initial meeting at the cemetery while all the paperwork is completed. That way I can make sure it states that on the paperwork and my groundsmen will know in advance of any changes of the burial in question as each is different from another.

  • Dean Phillips
    Posted at 01:04h, 26 February Reply

    I thought it was interesting how a Tap is a traditional bugle call sounded at military funerals by an official bugler or by electronic means. My grandfather who served in the United States Air Force recently passed away, so my mother and her siblings have been trying to find a place that offers funeral services for veterans. It would be important for my grandfather to maintain the traditions of the military for his funeral.

  • Aly
    Posted at 12:00h, 24 January Reply

    My father is a WWII veteran and served in the Navy. We tried to get Military honors for his funeral but they don’t do weekends and we are burying him on Saturday, 1/26/2019. Really? He served this country 24/7 but no one can take a couple of hours on a Saturday to honor him? And we desperately need pallbearers – at 92 years old few friends and family are still alive to help.

  • Willis Renshaw
    Posted at 13:19h, 22 January Reply

    If you decide you want bagpipes played will the VA reimburse you for that

  • Kmb
    Posted at 15:02h, 09 January Reply

    My father-in-law and my grandfather in law, both 20+ years veterans in the armed services, and both on active duty during wartime, passed away and received military honors at their services. However, BOTH times the electronic bugles that were to play Taps crapped out after the first note. The batteries died and both bugles. The honor guard holding the electronic bugle at my grandfather’s service literally beat the bugle and yelled out, “battery died!”. This was an absolute travesty. It was so beyond unacceptable and our family is livid. I can understand not having live buglers these days, but for God’s sake bring and test fresh batteries, an extra electronic bugle or some extra freaking batteries. Both of these honored veterans deserved much more.

  • Leana Christison
    Posted at 15:43h, 20 October Reply

    I have been able to make arrangements for military honor for my father who died October 16, with the American legion. When I asked if there was a cost the commander told me that was up to me. Is it customary to “tip” the volunteers? If so what is the standard rate?

  • Clarence Kenton, Sr.
    Posted at 19:49h, 17 October Reply

    This government spend billions on junk, but cannot bury its veterans with honors, employers have to pay for reserve and guard 2 wk summer deployment why can’t the government compensate them ,the employeee, or the employers, for allowing those that volunteer to be reasonably compensated for this act of patriotism.

  • Benjamin D Arcamo Jr
    Posted at 16:50h, 17 October Reply

    My father served a total of 25 years active / reseved. He was buried at the military cemetery and was not given the full military honors with the 21 gun salute. Due to an amininsration error. I was told I have to go thru my state representative to get permission. I need the proper closure for my father with the traditional gun salute to honor the deceased.

  • leon Alexander
    Posted at 21:11h, 16 October Reply

    My brother who was a Vietnam vet is being buried with military honors. However, in addition to this, I would like a rifle volley, live bugler and eight bells pass over ring. Do you or can you direct me to an organization who can provide these services?

    Posted at 00:17h, 09 September Reply

    My father passed away yesterday at the age of 92. He served 20 yrs in the Navy retired then worked another 22 yrs civil service an retired. We went to set funeral arrangements an was told there is no one able to perform the Volleys. I’m heartbroken I really wanted all 3 of the honors. Can anyone give me suggestions? I called the American Legion an they said they are generally made of volunteers an the service being on Mon most of them have day jobs an cannot attend. VFW also cannot help.

  • Bill Nelson
    Posted at 10:14h, 07 September Reply

    The Blair County Veterans Honor Guard is a Volunteer Service Organization that renders and or assists the Military in providing Military Honors. I am trying to find out the date that President Bill Clinton authorized VSO’s to assist and render Honors.
    We have been in existence since 2008 and have rendered over 1,500 funeral detains in Pennsylvania. Trying to write a article for the newspaper to recruit some new members.
    Your help would be truly appreciated.

  • Joanne
    Posted at 23:52h, 11 June Reply

    Can military honor guard be provided if it’s not gravesite. How can it be arranged quickly if possible. My friend has been told it can’t be done and her father really wanted military funeral honors. They are in San Diego and need very quickly.

    Posted at 12:15h, 22 May Reply

    I am very upset with the fact my daughter pop pop passed away KENNETH CHARTIER ,services at ADAMS PERFECT FUNERAL HOME IN NORTHFIELD NJ. he is Veteran Navy , the funeral is going to be this weekend at Atlantic County Veterans Park in NJ, his wife called VFW to arrange funeral for sat May 26 , the VFW said they could not be there do to other prior commitments with a bike run memorial day weekend..i was crushed to hear this my daughter 21 attended NORWICH UNIVERSITY IN VERMONT knew to goggle other help, they reached out to another group and they said they couldn’t either but then changed there mind they said we would have to stall the funeral home by 15 MIN.and they would be there…I’M CRUSHED MY HEART IS BROKEN !!!! HOW CAN PEOPLE DO THIS FOR A VETERAN .I AM NOT SAYING ANYTHING ABOUT THIS TO MY DAUGHTER OR HIS FAMILY OUT OF RESPECT BUT THIS IS NOT RIGHT. I’M SORRY FOR THE VENT..
    I hope they show.


  • Bruce Klitzman
    Posted at 21:26h, 01 May Reply

    In order to save money, Taps can now be played electronically from a fake bugle with an mp3 player in the bell. It is a pitiful resemblance of that played by a real bugler or trumpeter. A non-profit volunteer organization, Bugles Across America, can provide a live bugler for Veterans’ funerals at no charge. It would be even better if the Defense Department could do what this volunteer organization has done, only with military personnel.

  • Henry Kinsey
    Posted at 02:50h, 24 April Reply

    I am 100% permanent and total disabled would I qualify for honor guard at my funeral

  • Ron
    Posted at 20:57h, 17 April Reply

    Can military funeral honours be provided to someone who lives (permanent resident) in Canada. I am a 20 year retired Air Force veteran and I am considering having military honours. Is this possible? I live 1.5 hours from Buffalo, NY and 3 hours from Detroit, MI.

    • Matt Terry
      Posted at 18:53h, 23 April Reply


      Contact the Veterans Affairs office nearest you.


  • Trish
    Posted at 19:04h, 15 March Reply

    does the deceased military spouse get the same honors as the deceased vet?

    • Matt Terry
      Posted at 18:56h, 23 April Reply


      Contact the Veterans Affairs office nearest you for the answers you seek.


    • Stan Moore
      Posted at 22:44h, 10 February Reply

      No. A spouse is not in the military.

    • Jeffrey Spehar
      Posted at 19:38h, 16 September Reply

      The honor guard is for the servicemember, not the spouse. Get real.

  • Curtis Lebow
    Posted at 04:25h, 26 January Reply

    If there is no casket, as in the case of cremation, how is the flag ceremony handled?

    • bobbi
      Posted at 23:43h, 21 July Reply

      they unfold the flag, and refold it, present it to the receiver of the flag and tell them, “On behalf of the President of the United
      States, [the United States Army, the United
      States Marine Corps, the United States Navy
      or the United States Air Force] and a grateful
      nation, please accept this flag as a symbol
      of our appreciation for your loved one’s
      honorable and faithful service.”

  • LW
    Posted at 02:00h, 07 November Reply

    I was recently informed my husband a Vietnam. Eternal with 12 years Of active duty service 2 tours in Vietnam didn’t qualify for a rifle salute. Is this true?

    • Adam
      Posted at 02:38h, 07 November Reply

      Since Jan. 1, 2000, every armed forces veteran and member on active duty or in the active reserve has had the right to be buried with patriotic flourishes provided by a military honor guard. On that date, Military Funeral Honors became a statutory benefit to all veterans with the signing of the National Defense Authorization Act. The law requires that, upon the family’s request, every eligible veteran is entitled to receive a military funeral honors ceremony to include folding, presentation of the United States burial flag and the sounding of taps, at no cost to the family.

      You will need to provide the funeral home with your husbands DD214 form and they will contact the VA and arrange the services.

  • Dotty Buster
    Posted at 14:25h, 31 May Reply

    My father was a WW2 vet he is being cremated dies May 25,2017 want to have a memorial service for him. I don’t know how to go about it please help me.

  • Pam cartwright
    Posted at 18:23h, 04 January Reply

    Can a service member be buried in a national Cemetary if that person was in the reserves?

    • Sgt Richardson
      Posted at 02:53h, 26 September Reply


    • Dualsportvet
      Posted at 20:12h, 26 November Reply

      If the veteran did not serve active duty (not training time), no. You must serve at minimum, 1 day of active duty during war time while others outside of war time can be as much as 2 years of active duty. If you are just reserve or national guard, no.

      • Fitzgerald
        Posted at 15:08h, 26 February Reply

        Dualsportvet…military retirees of Reserve Components are eligible to be buried in National VA Cemeteries, even if they were never called to Active Duty during their 20+ year careers…it is not well known, but is true. I felt as a Vet, you would want to know that possibility exists.

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