Military Funeral Honors and Military Cemetaries: Frequently Asked Questions
Military Funeral Honors
and Military Cemeteries:
Frequently Asked Questions
Mari-Jana “M-J” Oboroceanu
Information Research Specialist
Knowledge Services Group
This report is written in response to frequently asked questions about military
funeral honors and military cemeteries. It provides information on the eligibility criteria,
required components of the honor detail, and the funeral ceremony. It also cites
legislation that mandates that the Department of Defense (DOD) make military funeral
honors available to every eligible veteran upon request. This report will be updated as
needed. For related reading, see CRS Report RL32769, Military Death Benefits: Status
and Proposals, by David F. Burrelli.
What Are Military Funeral Honors?
The Department of Defense (DOD) defines military funeral honors as the ceremonial
paying of respect and the final demonstration of the country’s gratitude to those who, in
times of war and peace, have faithfully defended our nation. Members of the funeral
honors detail fold and present the American flag to the veteran’s survivor and Taps is
What Legislation Provides for the Implementation
of the Current Military Funeral Honors Program?
The National Defense Authorization Act for FY2000, P.L. 106-65, as amended, sets out
the requirements for funeral honors and mandates military honors at funerals for all
eligible veterans.2 The originating language can be found in the Strom Thurmond
National Defense Authorization Act For Fiscal Year 1999, H.Rept. 105-736, section 567,
“The conferees agree that men and women who have served honorably, whether in war
1 Department of Defense Instruction 1300.15, “Military Funeral Support,” October 22, 2007, at
2 10 U.S.C. 1491.
or peace, deserve commemoration for their military service at the time of their death by
an appropriate tribute. Burial honors are an important means of reminding Americans of
the sacrifices endured to keep the Nation free.”3
What Agency Is Responsible for Administering
the Military Funeral Honors Program?
The Department of Defense is responsible for providing military honors to eligible
veterans. DOD Instruction 1300.15 updates policy and responsibilities for military
funeral support. DOD has established a website that provides information including
eligibility criteria, the text of relevant legislation, information for funeral directors, and
related links, at [http://www.militaryfuneralhonors.osd.mil]. Questions or comments
regarding the program can be addressed to Military Funeral Honors, 10100 Reunion
Place, Suite 260, San Antonio, TX 78216-4138.
Who Is Eligible for Military Funeral Honors?
Military members in the following categories are eligible for military funeral honors:
military personnel on active duty; former military members who served on active duty and
were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable (as described below); members
of the Selected Reserve; former members of the Selected Reserve who served at least one
term of enlistment or period of initial obligated service and were discharged under
conditions other than dishonorable; and former members of the Selected Reserve who
were discharged due to a service-related disability.4
Who Is Ineligible for Military Funeral Honors?
Veterans are ineligible if convicted of a capital offense (as defined in the National
Defense Authorization Act for FY2006, P.L. 109-163, section 662), or when the
circumstances involved would bring discredit upon the person’s service or former service.
Veterans are also ineligible if they were discharged from the military under dishonorable
conditions. These conditions include dishonorable discharge, bad conduct discharge,
dismissal from the service awarded by court-martial, other than honorable conditions
discharge, and for officers who resign for the good of the service in lieu of courts-martial,
which results in a discharge characterization of other than honorable conditions.
P.L. 109-163 (section 662) modified titles 10 and 38 of the U.S. Code, to expand the
prohibition against the interment of anyone in a national cemetery, as well as the use of
military honors, for anyone convicted of a capital offense (as defined), or when the
3 For background information, see CRS Report RS20396, Military Funeral Honors for U.S.
Veterans: Increasing Demands on the Department of Defense, by Katherine Lemay Brown.
4 According to CRS Report RL30802, Reserve Component Personnel Issues: Questions and
Answers, by Lawrence Kapp, “The Selected Reserve contains units and individuals most essential
to wartime missions, in accordance with the national security strategy. They have priority over
other reservists for training and equipment. Members of the Selected Reserve are generally
required to perform one weekend of training each month (‘inactive duty for training’ or IDT, also
known as ‘weekend drill’) and two weeks of training each year (‘annual training’ or AT,
sometimes known colloquially as ‘summer camp’) for which they receive pay and benefits.”
circumstances involved would bring discredit upon the person’s service or former service.
This language expands upon P.L. 105-116 that Congress passed in 1997. That law barred
those convicted of capital crimes from being buried in a national cemetery. The 1997 law
was ostensibly passed to prevent the possibility of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy
McVeigh, a veteran, from being buried at Arlington National Cemetery. McVeigh was
put to death on June 11, 2001.
Section 404 of P.L. 109-461 required the removal of Russell Wayne Wagner’s
remains from the columbarium at Arlington National Cemetery. An honorably discharged
Vietnam veteran, Wagner was convicted of killing an elderly Maryland couple in 1994.
Wagner died in 2005 while serving two life terms in prison. Because he was eligible for
parole, he qualified for burial at Arlington. Following protests from the murdered
couple’s son, language was included in the Veterans Benefits, Health Care and
Information Technology Act of 2006, P.L. 109-461, requiring the removal of Wagner’s
remains. The Superintendent of the Arlington Cemetery reported that the cremated
remains of Russell Wayne Wagner have been removed from Arlington National Cemetery
and turned over to his sister.5
What Is the Required Composition
of a Military Funeral Honors Detail?
The military services operate under service-specific policies; the honors vary from
service to service and are dependent upon available resources. At the minimum, a funeral
honors detail consists of two members of the Armed Forces, at least one of which is a
member of the veteran’s military service.
Funeral honors details may be augmented with volunteers who are military veterans
and who are members of veterans’ service organizations, such as the American Legion
and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, or other appropriate organizations. The Authorized
Provider Partnership Program (AP3) was established to provide training for these
volunteers to standardize the quality of the honors rendered. Volunteers can participate
as firing party members, pallbearers, and buglers, among other duties. When a trained
bugler is not available, a recorded version of Taps may be played. DOD also approved
the use of a ceremonial bugle, which contains a device in the bell of the bugle that plays
a recorded version of Taps.
Who Is Responsible for Making the Arrangements
for Honors to Be Performed?
Honors are not performed automatically; they must be requested. Families of
eligible veterans must request funeral honors through their funeral director. The funeral
director is to contact the appropriate military service to arrange for the funeral honors
5 Document available at [http://www.arlingtoncemetery.net/rwwagner.htm].
Are Members of the Military Honors Detail Paid?
Members of the Ready Reserve6 or retired military personnel who are part of a
military funeral detail may receive pay, allowances, travel, and transportation
reimbursements.7 Ready Reserve personnel may also receive service credit for
performing this duty.8 Survivors are not charged for these services.
Section 571 of P.L. 107-314, the Bob Stump National Defense Authorization Act for
FY2003, enacted December 2, 2002, provides for a flat rate daily stipend for members of
the funeral honors detail who are not active duty military personnel. The daily stipend for
FY2008 is $50. The U.S. Code provides at 10 U.S.C. 1491(d) (1) that to support a funeral
honors detail under this section, the Secretary of a military department may provide the
(A) For a person who participates in a funeral honors detail (other than a person who
is a member of the armed forces not in a retired status or an employee of the United
States), either transportation (or reimbursement for transportation) and expenses or the
daily stipend prescribed under paragraph (2).
(B) For members of a veterans organization or other organization referred to in
subsection (b)(2) and for members of the armed forces in a retired status, materiel,
equipment, and training.
(C) For members of a veterans organization or other organization referred to in
subsection (b)(2), articles of clothing that, as determined by the Secretary concerned, are
appropriate as a civilian uniform for persons participating in a funeral honors detail.
Volunteers seeking reimbursement should complete DOD Standard Form 1164 and
submit it to the unit with which they are volunteering.
How Many Military Funeral Honors for Veterans Requests Are
Supported Only by Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs)?
DOD officials stated that the military, in accordance with the law, provides military
personnel in every instance in which the eligible survivors have requested such honors.
Defense officials note, however, that in some instances, funeral directors contact VSOs
for such services with or without seeking military personnel assistance. It is not possible
to know how often this occurs. Financial or other assistance (such as transportation, a
stipend or reimbursement for expenses) from the military for VSO services may be
provided by a nearby military unit. This assistance comes from that unit’s funds. In some
6 According to CRS Report RL30802, Reserve Component Personnel Issues: Questions and
Answers, by Lawrence Kapp, “The Ready Reserve is the primary manpower pool of the reserve
components. Members of the Ready Reserve will usually be called to active duty before
members of the Standby Reserve or the Retired Reserve. The Ready Reserve is made up of the
Selected Reserve, the Individual Ready Reserve, and the Inactive National Guard.”
7 37 U.S.C. 435.
8 10 U.S.C. 12732(a)(2)(E).
instances, state governments have provided assistance or benefits to VSOs who perform
What Military Honors Are Afforded to Individuals Interred
or Inurned at Arlington National Cemetery?
Eligibility criteria for interment or inurnment can be obtained from the Arlington
National Cemetery Website at [http://www.arlingtoncemetery.org], or from the Interment
Services Branch at (703) 607-8585. Once eligibility is determined, honors are afforded
according to rank. Enlisted personnel receive standard honors and a firing party.
Commissioned and warrant officers receive standard honors, a firing party, and may
request the caisson and escort troops. Those individuals who are eligible for inurnment
in the columbarium receive the standard honors and a firing party. All may request a
military chaplain to preside over the services. Additional details are available at
[ h ttp://www.arlingt oncemetery.org/ funeral_information/gu ide.atneed.html#honors] .
What are the Available Emblems of Belief for Placement
on Government Headstones and Markers?
A current list of the approved emblems of belief can be found on the U.S.
Department of Veterans Affairs Website at [http://www.cem.va.gov/cem/hm/hmemb.asp].
A new emblem of belief for Wicca, the pentacle, was added to the list in 2007.10
According to the website, no graphics (logos, symbols, etc.) are permitted on government-
furnished headstones or markers other than the approved emblems of belief, the Civil War
Union Shield, the Civil War Confederate Southern Cross of Honor, and the Medal of
9 In consultation with David F. Burrelli, CRS Specialist in National Defense, Foreign Affairs,
Defense, and Trade Division on February 5, 2008.
10 Settlement agreement and stipulation of dismissal in the case of Circle Sanctuary v. Nicholson,
U.S. Dist. Ct., Western Dist. of Wisconsin, Case No. 06-C-0660-S.