Army Funeral Services: Military Funeral Honors with Escort Columbarium Inurnments

General Information:

Military funeral honors with escort funerals at Arlington National Cemetery may include the following elements:

    • A casket team (body bearers / pallbearers)
    • A firing party
    • A bugler
    • Folding of and Presentation of our National Colors
    • An escort element (size varies according to the rank of the deceased)
    • A military band
Those eligible for a funeral escort at Arlington National Cemetery may request the caisson, if available.

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 military funeral honors with escort 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 casket team 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.
  • 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.

At the Columbarium

  • The casket team 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 can tell you the route that the casket team will use to carry the urn to the courtyard site.
  • Start to drop your salute and lead the procession, after the casket team has retrieved the remains and are standing with the other casket team, when you hear the command 'ready - step'.
  • 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 OIC.

At the Columbarium: The Courtyard

  • Stand to the side, allowing enough room for the casket team and OIC to move past you. You should stand so that you will be near the OIC when they come into position to place the urn on its stand. (Center courtyard only: The casket team will normally enter the courtyard from the right side. They will then go behind the green chairs and place the urn on the stand.)
  • The casket team will position the remains on the stand 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 courtyard.
  • Please conduct your courtside 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 therefore request that these services be kept under ten minutes in length.
  • The OIC and the casket team will look for you to step back at the end of your service to indicate that you are finished.
  • Please Note: If the funeral is for a General officer, please step back just before the last prayer or final few words. There will then be a cannon fire salute. Then, please complete your courtside services.
  • Military honors will then 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 casket team, who will then march off to your front.
  • The presentation of the flag:
    • OIC: The OIC will turn and present the folded flag to to the NOK (normally seated on the left front seat) and present the flag. When presenting the flag, the OIC will use these 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, the OIC will salute the flag and move to the side.
    • Please Note: For a General Officer funeral, a special representative will present the flag.
    • Civilian clergy: 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.

At the Columbarium: The Niche

  • The Cemetery Representative will invite the family to follow you and the Cemetery Representative to the niche (place in the wall where the urn is placed) for inurnment. The Cemetery Representative will 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 Cemetery Representative will look to 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 will announce that services have ended, and invite people to go to their cars.
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