4 Tips for Planning a Military Funeral

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Planning a funeral is a huge responsibility, especially if the deceased person served in the military. Veterans are eligible for certain honors and benefits as provided by the Veterans Association, or VA.

These options allow you to properly honor the life that was lost as well as their sacrifice, service, and dedication to our country. But they can be a little overwhelming if you don’t know where to begin.

Here are our tips for planning a military funeral.

Contact the VA to Receive Benefits

The VA may help cover some of the costs of the funeral, but it is your responsibility to reach out and request these benefits. A funeral director can also help you apply.

The benefits allotted will depend on the location of the burial. Veterans who were honorably discharged are eligible to be buried in a national cemetery or state veterans cemetery. If you choose this option, the VA may cover the costs of:

  • The opening and closing of the grave
  • A standard concrete grave liner
  • A government-issued headstone or marker
  • Standard honors (explained below)
  • A US burial flag
  • A Presidential Memorial Certificate given to the next of kin
  • Care and upkeep of the grave and plot

If you choose to bury your loved one in a private cemetery, the VA will instead provide:

  • Reimbursement up to $796 for a burial plot
  • A government-issued headstone or marker
  • Standard honors
  • A US burial flag
  • A Presidential Memorial Certificate given to the next of kin

You will need to supply the discharge papers (DD214) and the certificate of death in order to receive these benefits. Keep in mind that the veteran is eligible even if they choose to be cremated. 

Schedule the Military Honors

Military honors are a series of small ceremonies rooted in respect and tradition. The standard military honors include:

  • A military chaplain officiating the ceremony and providing support for the family
  • The US flag draped over the casket
  • An honor guard presenting arms and saluting the deceased
  • Two members of the guard folding the burial flag and presenting it to the next of kin
  • Attendees asked to stand and salute, or place their hands over their hearts
  • An honor guard playing “Taps” on the bugle (or an electric recording)

Star-ranking officers are eligible for additional honors, including a multiple-gun salute, military band, and escort platoon. A funeral director and VA representative can help you schedule these honors.

Respect Your Loved One’s Wishes

Hopefully, you’ve had a chance to discuss your loved one’s end-of-life wishes before they passed away. You should honor their decisions at every point in the process. This includes the method of disposal, extent of the honors performed, and location of their final resting place.

You can also consider the appearance of their headstone. Many military headstones include the dates of their service or any important battles they fought in. You can also apply for an official veteran grave marker or medallion to honor their service.

If you did not have this opportunity, it’s important to try and envision what the deceased person would have enjoyed. Try not to use your own judgment, and instead consider what decisions they would have made for themselves.

Add a Personalized Touch

Military funerals tend to follow strict tradition, but that doesn’t mean there is no room for personalized touches.

In fact, adding those pieces of your loved one’s personality, religion, and life outside of the military can make the ceremony more effective in the healing process.

Some people will include a slideshow or picture wall of the deceased person’s life. The eulogy is another place where you can highlight the personality and contributions of your loved one. Consider funeral keepsakes to give to attendees, such as a program or prayer card.

Finally, notify the friends and family members of the service. Include any fellow military men or women who served with your loved one. This will ensure the veteran you have lost is properly honored by all those who loved them.

Custom Headstones, Urns, & More in MD

When planning a funeral, one of the most important choices to make is the headstone or urn. 

Here at Merkle Monuments, we provide high-quality memorial items that are fully customizable. Choose from a variety of beautiful colors, timeless styles, and durable materials. 

We are proud to have served Maryland for almost 100 years. Call now to learn more!