Military Funeral Honors Eligibility

Among the ways that the United States shows its appreciation for the sacrifices of those who defend their country is by providing burial and memorial benefits to current and former members of the U.S. Armed Forces. This includes military funeral honors for every eligible military veteran, at the family's request. Learn about the military funeral honors ceremonies available to veterans, and who is eligible to receive them.

A presentation of a folded American flag to a woman at a graveyard
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What Are Military Funeral Honors?

The U.S. Department of Defense oversees and administrates the military funeral honors program, which provides dignified recognition of the service and sacrifice made by a deceased military veteran—whether on active service or honorably discharged—after their death. These honors are provided at no cost to the family on behalf of a grateful nation.

Known as the "Honoring Those Who Served" program, or simply "military funeral honors," the services include the following, at a minimum:

  • The presence of a two-person detail, at a minimum, in military uniform. At least one of these individuals will represent the deceased's parent branch of military service, i.e., Army, Navy, Marines, etc.
  • The playing of "Taps," either via a live bugler or via a special "ceremonial bugle" that plays a recorded version of the song electronically. (The recording was taken from an actual burial at Arlington National Cemetery, the nation's premier national cemetery for members of the U.S. Armed Forces.)
  • The ceremonial folding of the American flag and presentation to the next-of-kin or appropriate family member by the uniformed individual representing the deceased's parent branch of military service.

Other Military Funeral Honors Available

Additional military funeral honors exist, but cannot be guaranteed due to limitations on available personnel and resources. These additional honors might include:

  • A rifle detail
  • A flag-bearing color guard
  • Service-connected pallbearers
  • A caisson to carry the deceased
  • A flyover by military aircraft

The availability of any of these additional military funeral honors is subject to the availability of personnel and resources. Therefore, while families may request these services for the committal of loved ones, there is no guarantee that your funeral provider, cemetery or the federal government can provide them.

Who Is Eligible for Military Funeral Honors?

In general, anyone who served in the U.S. Armed Forces and died either during active duty or after they were honorably discharged is eligible for military funeral honors. The person's DD 214 or other official discharge papers are required to determine eligibility. According to the National Defense Act of 2000 (Public Law 106-65) families may request military funeral honors for the following deceased loved ones:

  • Military members who died while on active duty or in the Selected Reserve
  • Former military members who served on active duty or in the Selected Reserve and were discharged under other than dishonorable conditions
  • Former military members who completed at least one term of enlistment or period of initial obligated service in the Selected Reserve and were discharged under other than dishonorable conditions

In addition, the U.S. federal government has authorized military funeral honors for certain other military and civilian groups, such as the American Merchant Marines during World War II, and members of the National Guard.

To detemine eligibility or arrange for military honors, talk to your funeral director. They will access the Military Funeral Honors Directory to locate the resources. Local veteran organizations may also assist in some cases.

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Article Sources
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  1. U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. Military funeral honors and the commital service. Updated October 9, 2019.

  2. Department of Defense. Veterans and military funeral honors—benefits.

  3. United States Army Human Resources Command. Funeral honors.

  4. Department of Defense. Military Funeral Honors Service program managers.