Army Funeral Services: Full Honors Graveside Burial

General Information:

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

  • A Casket Team
  • A Color Guard
  • A Firing Party
  • A Bugler
  • A Military Band
  • A Military Chaplain
  • An escort platoon
    (size varies according to
    the rank of the deceased)

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 Full Honors funeral begins at a designated point, called a transfer point, in ANC. The religious leader conducting the service should go to the Administration Building at least 30 minutes prior to the funeral, which gives you time to meet with the family and with the Cemetery Representative from Arlington National Cemetery (ANC). There you will find out where the transfer point is. A military chaplain may also be requested at no additional cost to the family. For civilian leaders, a military chaplain may serve as your escort. For specific information, contact the Cemetery Representative upon arrival.

Transfer Point

  • Look for the Cemetery Representative, who can help you regarding protocol. Another helpful person is the Officer in Charge (OIC), who will be near the horse drawn caisson.
  • You will stand next to the OIC when the family arrives and the transfer ceremony begins. This ceremony will formally transfer the inurned remains to the caisson.
    For an urn, ANC 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 OIC does. As long as the OIC is standing next to where you are, you can follow his lead.
  • When the OIC moves to stand behind the pall bearers and inspect the casket, do not move. Instead, stand where you are and continue to hold the salute. When you hear the command "Order Arms", drop your hand along with the soldiers.
  • When the OIC salutes and begins to move along the caisson to the front, salute (Civilian dress: hand over heart) and move past the caisson to the front as well, dropping the salute when in front of the flag draped coffin. Then move to a point in well in front of the caisson, along the side of the road, in order to take your place in the funeral procession.

Funeral Procession

  • Wait there by the side of the road until the marching units, including the band and marching platoon, go past.
  • Salute (Civilian dress: hand over heart) when the flag goes past.
  • Walk, not march, about 24 steps behind the last marching unit. The caisson with the remains will follow you at about the same spacing.
  • Follow the marching unit to the place of burial. See Processional Diagram and the Symbol Chart for more information.
    Processional Diagram
    Symbol Chart
  • Be careful to look for the OIC. The marching units may turn or go in a different direction shortly before they get to the OIC. If this happens, do not follow the marching units but rather walk to the OIC and stand alongside him.
  • Salute (Civilian dress: hand over heart) when the OIC does, and follow his lead on when to drop your hand.

To the grave site from the curb

  • The pall bearers will remove the casket / urn from the caisson and prepare to march to the grave site. The OIC can tell you where the grave is and the route that the pallbearers will use to carry the casket / urn to the grave. Salute (Civilian dress: hand over heart) when the OIC salutes, generally when the flag is moving and you are standing still. See diagram for more information.
    Full Honors Columbarium
  • Casket: be prepared to drop your salute and lead the casket as the pallbearers make a five step formal turn with the casket.
    Urn: start to drop your salute and lead the procession, after the pallbearers have retrieved the remains and are standing with the other pallbearers, when you hear the command "ready - step".
    5 Step Turn
  • Lead the processional to the grave 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 along with the OIC. See diagram for more information.
    Receiving the Flag

At the grave site

  • Stand near the small green metal marker, allowing enough room for the pall bearers and OIC to move past you to the grave.
  • Stand near the small green metal marker, allowing enough room for the pall bearers and OIC to move past you to the grave.
  • The pallbearers will position the remains over the grave and unfold the flag, holding it taut over the remains. The OIC will inspect, then take one step back. This is your cue to begin the religious services at the grave.
  • Please conduct your graveside services according to your religious tradition. Also, please remember that time is our enemy at ANC, with an average of 23 funerals each day. We request that grave side services be kept under ten minutes in length.
  • The OIC and the pallbearers will look for you to step back at the end of your service to indicate that you are finished.
  • Please Note: For a General Officer funeral, there is customarily a series of cannon fires just before the end of the graveside service. Please, just before your last prayer, benediction, or last few words, step back one step and wait until the cannon fire is over. After the command "order arms", please step forward and finish your service with your final words.
  • Following your services, military honors will be rendered. Chaplains will position themselves directly behind the OIC to receive the flag to present to the Next of Kin (NOK). Civilian leaders.will stand to the side. Follow the OIC's lead in saluting (Civilian dress: hand over heart).
  • Military honors will consist of three rifle volleys by seven riflemen, Taps by a military bugler, and the formal folding of the flag.
  • The OIC will receive the folded flag from one of the pallbearers, who will then march off to the front.
  • The presentation of the flag:
    • Chaplains: The OIC will turn and present you the folded flag. Take the flag with your left hand on top and your right hand on the bottom, and stand while the OIC salutes the flag (do not salute yourself at this point). When the OIC drops his salute, go to the NOK (normally seated on the left front seat) and present the flag. When you present the flag, use these or similar words:
      "On behalf of the President of the United States, The United States Army, and a grateful Nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation
      for your loved one's honorable and faithful service."
      After presenting the flag, salute the flag and move to the side. See diagram for more information.
      Receiving the Flag at Graveside
    • Please Note: For a General Officer funeral, a special representative will present the flag.
    • Civilian leaders: The OIC or a designated military person will present the flag.
  • The Arlington lady will offer condolences. You are welcome to do the same after she returns to her place.
  • The Cemetery Representative will announce that services have ended, and invite people to go to their cars.
  • If a curbside salute is done, Military Chaplains should follow the OIC's lead in standing by the curb and saluting.
See Symbol chart for the meaning of the symbols in the diagrams.
Symbol Chart
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