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Military Funeral Honors

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The bugle call "Taps" originated in the Civil War with the Army of the Potomac. Union Army Brig. Gen. Daniel Butterfield didn't like the bugle call that signaled soldiers in the camp to put out the lights and go to sleep, and worked out the melody of "Taps" with his brigade bugler, Pvt. Oliver Wilcox Norton. The call later came into another use as a figurative call to the sleep of death for soldiers. Another military honor dates back only to the 20th century. The missing-man formation usually is a four-aircraft formation with the No. 3 aircraft either missing or performing a pull-up maneuver and leaving the formation to signify a lost comrade in arms.

While this can change slightly from service-to-service, and -- based on preferences of family members, below is the standard sequence of events for a military funeral at Arlington National Cemetery:

  • The caisson or hearse arrives at grave site, everyone presents arms.

  • Casket team secures the casket, NCOIC, OIC and chaplain salute.

  • Chaplain leads the way to grave site, followed by casket team.

  • Casket team sets down the casket and secures the flag.

  • The NCOIC ensures the flag is stretched out and level, and centered over the casket.

  • NCOIC backs away and the chaplain, military or civilian, will perform the service.

  • At conclusion of interment service and before benediction, a gun salute is fired for those eligible ( i.e. general officers).

  • Chaplain concludes his service and backs away, NCOIC steps up to the casket.

  • The NCOIC presents arms to initiate the rifle volley.

  • Rifle volley complete, bugler plays "Taps."

  • Casket-team leader starts to fold the flag.

  • Flag fold complete, and the flag is passed to the NCOIC, OIC.

  • Casket team leaves grave site.

  • NCOIC, OIC either presents the flag to the next of kin, or if there is a military chaplain on site he will present the flag to the chaplain, and then the chaplain will present to the next of kin.

  • Arlington Lady presents card of condolences to the next of kin.

  • The only person remaining at the grave is one soldier, the vigil. His mission is to watch over the body until it is interred into the ground.
Much of the above information derived from the Army News Service

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