Those who have served in the U.S. military are celebrated in life as heroes protecting freedom and democracy. In death, their service is also honored with a military funeral and can include in burial in a national cemetery.
Family members may not realize all the options and services available as they plan a service for their loved one. Pre-planning is always a good idea, so decisions can be made with time to prepare and discuss the available choices.
As you’re working with a funeral home on arrangements either in advance or in the days following the death of a loved one, consider the following 3 things about a military funeral:
1. Funeral honors
Those who served 20 years and retired from active duty receive modified full honors. That may include an honor guard of seven to nine soldiers, often provided locally by the S.C. National Guard, who serve as pallbearers during the burial. A bugler is also provided to play “Taps” during the burial while the honor guard gives a final salute to the deceased. A rifle team may also give a traditional three-volley salute at the family’s request. The honor guard finishes by folding the American flag and presenting it to the family.
Anyone serving fewer than 20 years who did not retire can receive an honor guard of two or three soldiers who will play “Taps” as well as fold and present the American flag. A serviceman or women killed in action would have an honor guard of 21 soldiers to perform official duties and full honors at the funeral service.
2. Military burial
For veterans buried in a private cemetery, they are entitled to a government-provided headstone or marker, a burial flag and a presidential memorial certificate. Those items are provided at no cost to the family. Benefits are not available to spouses or dependents buried in a private cemetery.
Veterans may be buried at a private cemetery or at one of the 131 national cemeteries if space is available. South Carolina has three national cemeteries: Beaufort National Cemetery, Florence National Cemetery and Fort Jackson National Cemetery in Columbia.
3. Proper paperwork
If pre-planning or if family members are requesting a military burial, they will need documentation of an honorary discharge from the military – known as a Military Record of Separation or form DD214. The veteran’s information is also needed to prepare a death certificate and obituary.
Look for a funeral home with experience in planning military services and helping families arrange burial benefits. Stuhr Funeral Home, a trusted name in funeral service for more than 150 years, has a certified veteran services officer who assists families in creating a special tribute to the servicemen and women who have so valiantly served the United States. To find out more about these services, visit JHenryStuhr.com/veteran-services call (843) 723-2524