Periodically the Veterans Affairs and Rehabilitation Offices throughout the State of California receive calls concerning Military Honors for our deceased veterans. You may not be aware of the rules, regulations, traditions, and the customs of such ceremonies.
Upon the family’s request, Public Law 106-65 requires that every eligible Veteran receive a military funeral honors ceremony, to include folding and presenting the United States burial flag and the playing of Taps.
The law defines a military funeral honors detail as consisting of two or more uniformed military persons, with at least one being a member of the Veteran’s parent service of the armed forces. The DOD program calls for funeral home directors to request military funeral honors on behalf of the Veterans’ family. However, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) National Cemetery Administration cemetery staff can also assist with arranging military funeral honors at VA national cemeteries.
Veteran’s organizations may assist in providing military funeral honors. When military funeral honors at a national cemetery are desired, they are arranged prior to the committal service by the funeral home. The Department of Defense began the implementation plan for providing military funeral honors for eligible Veterans as enacted in Section 578 of Public Law 106-65 of the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2000 on Jan. 1, 2000.
The key to this request is making sure you, as the veteran have a copy of your Discharge/DD-214 papers are on hand and that your family or closest friend know exactly where these are in case of your death. At the time of a veteran’s death ordering up their discharge/DD-214 papers is timely and may not arrive for 4 to 6 weeks. The National Archives claim they can get a copy out within 48 hours but don’t count on it. Being prepared ahead of time will reduce the stress on your loved ones during this emotional time. Communicating with your Funeral Director will ensure final military honors are rendered with dignity and honor.
To order your Discharge / DD-214 papers you can go directly to www.archives.gov click on the link titled: “e-VetRecs” and it will take you through four steps to get those records. A bit of advice when ordering, make sure that you request a certified copy by requesting it in the information box. In the past, we’ve had some National Cemeteries hold up funerals until it is proven to be a true copy. Remember without this important document[s] the VA will not take care of your final wishes. The veteran’s remains will stay in storage at the funeral home until clearance is granted. Storage of deceased remains is usually charged a storage fee and that can be costly.
Let’s now cover the actual Military Honors Ceremony. In accordance with Public Law 106-65, you are afforded a United States burial flag and at least two military personnel to carry out the ceremony. You will have the flag folding, flag presentation, and the playing of Taps, either recorded or if one is available an actual bugler. If the veteran requests a rifle squad to render the 21 gun salute more often than not you will have to request a Veteran Service Organization, such as the American Legion to do the honors. Under Department of Defense Authority Veteran Service Organizations are authorized to render Military Funeral Honors as necessary.