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How to Plan a Military Funeral Service

Updated April 17, 2017

Former members of the military often request to be buried with military honours. It's a long tradition punctuated by the familiar lament of the trumpeted "Taps." If your loved one will receive a military funeral, plan ahead to take advantage of available resources, such as the potential for burial services in a veterans' cemetery and the honours given to any honourably discharged veteran. Some, like the folded flag and "Taps", are provided for free; other services, such as burial assistance, are offered at discounted rates to veterans.

Compile the deceased's military discharge form (DD-214), showing a discharge that's not dishonourable, and the death certificate. You'll need these to make arrangements with the Veteran's Administration nearest you.

Fax these forms to the Veterans Administration at (866) 900-6417.

Wait a day and call the VA's National Cemetery Scheduling Office at (800) 535-1117. Speak with a representative about your available options, which include burial in the nearest veterans' cemetery, a grave marker, the presentation of a folded flag and the playing of "Taps" at the funeral. Make arrangements for a military detachment to be dispatched to the internment after arrangements have been finalised with your funeral director and the cemetery. (If these arrangements haven't been made yet, you may have to call back when they are.)

Contact the nearest military unit for the deceased's branch of service, if informed that no military units are available to perform burial rites in your area. Ask a post representative about volunteers who can come to fold your loved one's flag and present it during the playing of "Taps." If no active-duty or reserve units are stationed near you, often the local college will have an ROTC unit, or the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post stands ready to perform these functions.

Ensure your funeral director is adept at the presentation of the deceased's medals, if a uniform will be worn in the wake. Ask a veteran to view the body before the viewing to ensure the uniform is being worn correctly.

Things You'll Need

  • Certificate of death
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About the Author

Dan Harkins has been a full-time journalist since 1997. Prior to working in the alternative press, he served as a staff writer and editor for daily publications such as the "St. Petersburg Times" and "Elyria Chronicle-Telegram." Harkins holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of South Florida.