Military Memorial Service Traditions


A military burial is a memorial rite by the US military for a soldier, sailor, Marine or air officer. They are provided for those who either died in action or anyone who was honorably discharged. A retired veteran or a prominent military figure, president, or a statesman may also be honored with a military burial.

Military burials hold the strongest and most intact customs and traditions. No matter which branch of the military a serviceman or servicewoman used to serve, all of them deserve equal respect.

If you have a military person in the family or are one yourself, you’ll probably be interested in these last rites. They’re quite a unique and inspiring set of customs, so many people might be curious about them anyway.

So how is a memorial service tradition held and conducted? Also, what are the military funeral honors given to the deceased? We’ll try to answer this question below:

The Attendance

As ordered by the federal law, a military burial should consist of an Honor Guard Detail. This is to be comprised of no less than two Armed Forces members. One member shall stand as a representative of the branch wherein the deceased person served.

The burial itself is followed by the folding of the American flag by that representative of the departed person’s parent service. The flag shall then be presented to the next of kin.

While this part of the service is being conducted, the appropriately mournful musical piece “Taps” will be played by a bugler. In the absence of a bugler, an audio recording is also feasible. In fact, this is often the case with the US Armed Forces, as they usually aren’t able to provide a bugle player to do the job. This is probably due to the scarcity of available bugle players.

Other Customs

There are other standard customs in a military memorial service. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  1. A military chaplain being available for family members.
  2. A casket with the US flag draped over it like a pall. Traditionally, the blue field of the flag is to be placed on the coffin’s head and over the departed person’s left shoulder.
  3. A casket team that acts as pallbearers as well as honor guards.
  4. A rifle party for offering a three-volley salute (mistakenly called a 21-gun salute) after the proper memorial service is completed.
  5. For an enlisted non-commissioned officer (ranking E-9 and Officers), the casket is transported on a horse-drawn carriage. For funerals of all other military personnel, a hearse is used to transport the coffin.
  6. Fighter jets for an aerial salute in memory of a fallen or missing pilot may be performed.
  7. During the final rites at the Arlington Cemetery, a person is assigned to stand vigil over the coffin until it is buried in the ground. It is the deceased and his or her family’s decision, however, to choose Arlington Cemetery as the place of burial.

Preparation of the Remains

The remains of a military body are treated with the utmost care and respect, especially if the person died while on duty. The remains are packed with ice inside a transfer case. The latter is usually made of aluminum and draped with a flag.

A military cargo plane transports the remains if necessary, and enters the United States through the Dover Air Force Base. When they arrive, the next stop is the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center. This is just a short distance from the airport. The arrival destination and the mortuary might be different due to varying circumstances.

The body is followed by anyone who wishes to accompany it, including journalists, VIPs, family members, carry guards and chaplains. These parties will usually be on foot. At the mortuary, the remains are sent through all the processes of burial preparation, which also consists of clothing the body in full dress uniform.

Before and After the Service

When you arrange funeral arrangements for your deceased loved one who is a soldier or a sailor, you can rely on various agencies for more information: the Department of Defense, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Funeral Directors Association, and

After a loved one has passed away and been finally laid to rest, his or her relatives should contact the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and file a claim for the survivors’ benefits. In accordance with the law, the government should pay the bereaved family a death pension as well as dependency compensation. The closest relative, or next of kin, shall present copies of either marriage certificate or children’s birth certificates as proof that he or she was related to the deceased.

The Proper Honors

Military Memorial Service Traditions

When the body of a military person is in transit, the traveling protocol should be feet-first. There should also be military personnel standing at each transfer point for the proper rendering of honors. This means that they should stand at attention and give a salute when the coffin passes them by.

The honors here are usually the responsibility of a military escort that’ been trained for this especial purpose. If the death came about during active duty, there would be an additional honor guard for the body when it gets to the airport. This should consist of at least a uniformed service member and two other military personnel.

This military escort plays its part by delivering the remains to a suitable funeral home. The interment is held in this location. They’re not obligated to attend the actual service, although some of the personnel might choose to do so if they were close to the deceased.

If you want to take a closer look at the journey of a military funeral escort, the HBO movie called ‘Taking Chance’ might be of interest. This provides a personal account that’s also faithful to several real-life examples.

Displaying the Achievements

When you lose a loved one who was in the military, you likely want to honor their memory in a fitting manner. A military memorial service might be a great comfort and nothing less than what they deserve, but it will pass in a matter of hours.

In order to have a more permanent reminder of their military service, you could look at the Military Shadow Box offered by the company DisplayGifts. This is a large framed shadow box that could be used as a memorial for the achievements of a deceased military member. You can take a look at this box here:

This shadow box has a large enough display for any memento you might want to view every single day. It also includes a triangle area at the top for a flag that measures around 5 by 9.5 inches. You can attach the flag received on their funeral here as a way of commemorating their memory for the long term.

The material of this box is of solid wood, with a black felt inside and a mahogany finish. There’s also a red felt option if one prefers that color. The certificates, documents, and medals of the deceased can be displayed in this case, which can then be mounted on the wall or set on a counter.

With this display case, the pictures, pins, ribbons, and medals honoring your military family member or friend no longer have to remain tucked away in a drawer. You can give them a new home while displaying all these achievements to everyone. This will be both a comfort to you as well as a good way to honor the memory of a brave and selfless person.


When a person has given their life for their country or has risked it in the past, they’re entitled to a bit more ceremony than regular civilians. The military will make sure they get the honor they deserve while respecting their last rites.

While the pain of losing a loved one is hard to bear, a military funeral can provide some comfort for the bereaved family. If nothing else, it would assure them that their friend or family member got the dignity they deserved, especially when they sacrificed their lives for the safety of their people.

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