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Honoring those who pass

Military funeral honors available

Photo credit: Tech. Sgt. Jocelyn Ford

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The military is steeped in tradition, and funerals are no exception.

One of the more somber of military traditions is the symbolism surrounding a funeral with military honors.

The rendering of military funeral honors for an eligible veteran is mandated by law, free of charge, and conducted by an honor guard comprised of at least two members of the Armed Forces, with one of them being a representative of the parent service of the deceased veteran.

Families of eligible veterans can request military funeral honors through their funeral director.

"In our profession here at Mountain View Funeral Home, we work closely with the family members and the Joint Base Lewis-McChord community to honor veterans who have passed," said Rich Snider, the home's sales manager.

"We are committed to honoring their service."

Military honors are available for servicemembers who died while on active-duty or in the Selected Reserve.

In addition, honorably discharged veterans who served on active-duty or the Selected Reserve, as well as former military members who completed at least one term of enlistment or term of obligated service in the Reserves, are eligible.  

What follows is what a veteran's funeral should entail.

The Flag

The veteran's casket is always covered with the flag with the stars over the left shoulder.

This custom began in the Napoleonic Wars of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, when a flag was used to cover the dead as they were taken from the battlefield.

21-Gun Salute

Steeped in history found both on land and at sea, a 21-gun salute is another tradition observed at a veteran's funeral.

A deceased is entitled to a three-gun volley.  The firing team usually is comprised of seven servicemembers, along with a noncommissioned officer in charge.

The three-volley custom comes from an old battlefield custom.  

Two warring sides would cease hostilities to clear their dead from the field, and the firing of three volleys meant that the dead had been cared for.

The Playing of "Taps"

Composed by Union Gen. Daniel Butterfield during the Civil War, a bugler sounded a call for "lights out."

The 24-note melody is both eloquent and haunting, and its history begins in the British Army, where it was known as Last Post and sounded over a soldier's grave.

From this tradition, the playing of "Taps" in the United States military is heard at funerals, wreath layings and memorial services.

Closing and Flag Protocol

At the end of the service, the flag is removed from the casket and carefully folded by the honor guard.  Each fold is symbolic, and when complete, only the stars are left showing.

A few shells from the gun salute may be inserted into the back fold before the flag is presented to the next of kin.

"It is an honor for us to serve those who have served this nation," concluded Snider.

For more information on military funerals, visit

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