Air Force Funeral Services: Full Honors Columbarium Inurnments


General Information:

Air Force Full Honor funerals at Arlington National Cemetery may include the following elements:

  • Bodybearers team

  • A Color Guard

  • A Firing Party

  • A Bugler

  • Honor Guard Flight

  • Air Force Ceremonial Brass Band

  • Air Force Chaplain

  • Arlington Lady, who represents the Chief of Staff, USAF

  • Escort for Arlington Lady

The Columbarium is designed for cremated remains only, with niches in the walls of the various courts to hold the cremated and inurned remains.

Specific Information:

The visiting clergy conducting the service should go to the Administration Building at least 30 minutes prior, which gives you time to meet with the family, the chaplain, and with the cemetery representative. For civilian clergy, an Air Force chaplain will serve as your escort when honors are rendered. For specific information, contact the cemetery representative upon arrival.

Transfer Point

  • The chaplain will act as your escort. The cemetery representative can also help you regarding protocol.

  • You will stand next to the chaplain when the family arrives and the transfer ceremony begins. This ceremony will formally transfer the urn to the caisson. The cemetery uses a special casket, already placed on the caisson, to hold the urn.

  • Prepare to salute (Civilian dress: place your right hand over your heart) when the Chaplain does. Follow your escorting chaplain once the remains are secure on the caisson.

Funeral Procession

  • Wait at a designated area until the marching units, including the band and marching element go past, saluting (Civilian dress: hand over heart) when the flag goes past

  • At this point, you may elect to walk with your escorting chaplain, walk with the family, or ride in the processional to the Columbarium. See Processional Diagram and the Symbol Chart for more information.

At the Columbarium

  • The bodybearers will remove the urn from the caisson and prepare to march to the courtyard, where military honors will be rendered. This may be in a central courtyard, with a short walk, or it may be in a small temporary courtyard right next to the road, on the side of the Columbarium. The cemetery representative or the chaplain can tell you the route that the bodybearers will use to carry the urn to the courtyard site. See diagram for more information.

  • Walk with the chaplain and lead the processional to the courtyard site, saluting (Civilian dress: hand over heart) after you stop and face the remains. Turn to continue facing the remains if appropriate to do so. Drop the salute (Civilian dress: hand over heart) along with the Chaplain.

At the Columbarium: The Courtyard

  • Stand by the chaplain, allowing enough room for the bodybearers to move past.

  • The bodybearers will position the remains on the stand and unfold the flag, holding it taut over the remains.

  • The chaplain will come to attention signaling the beginning of honors.

  • The cemetery representative will ask the funeral party to stand as honors are conducted.

  • Military honors will consist of three rifle volleys by seven riflemen, "Taps" by a military bugler, and the formal folding of the flag.

  • The chaplain will receive the folded flag from one of the bodybearers, and will stand in place until the music stops. The chaplain will then present the flag to the next of kin and render a final salute unless other arrangements are made.

  • The Arlington lady will offer condolences. You are welcome to do the same after she concludes them. This concludes the military honors.

At the Columbarium: The Niche

  • The cemetery representative will invite the family to follow you, the chaplain, and the cemetery representative to the niche (where the urn is placed) for inurnment. The cemetery representative can show you where the niche is as you walk.

  • When all have arrived at the niche, the cemetery representative will invite a family member to place the remains in the niche.

  • At this point, the chaplain will cue you to do the committal service or its equivalent. Please do this very short service according to the dictates of your faith. This may be as simple as a short committal prayer and a benediction. At the end of this service, you are welcome to offer condolences to the family.

  • The cemetery representative announces that the service has ended, and invites people to return to their cars.