Visiting Clergy Guide

Military Funeral Honors — Columbarium Inurnment



General Information

Arlington National Cemetery can provide military funeral honors to authorized service members. These honors may include:

  • A casket team (body bearers/pallbearers)

  • A firing party

  • A bugler

  • Folding of and presentation of the U.S. flag 

More information on military funeral honors

Military funeral honors begin at the columbarium. Plan on arriving at the administration center at least 30 minutes before the service, which will allow you time to meet with the family and with the Cemetery Representative from Arlington National Cemetery (ANC). 

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

To the Columbarium

  • Look for the Cemetery Representative, who can help you regarding protocol. Another helpful person is the Officer in Charge (OIC). At the columbarium, stand by the OIC at the curb. When he or she presents arms, salute (military) or place your right hand over your heart (civilians) when the OIC does so, and drop your hand along with the OIC. When the ceremony begins, follow the OIC's lead in saluting or placing your right hand over your heart.

  • After the casket team has retrieved the remains, start to drop your salute and lead the procession when you hear the command "Ready — Step."

  • Lead the processional to the courtyard site, saluting or placing your right hand over your heart after you stop and face the remains. Turn to continue facing the remains if it is appropriate to do so. Drop your hand along with the OIC.

At the Columbarium: The Courtyard

  • Stand to the side, allowing enough room for the casket team and the OIC to move past you. You should stand so that you will be near the OIC when he or she comes 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 over 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 service at the courtyard.

  • Please conduct your courtside services according to your religious tradition. Also, please be mindful of time; ANC has an average of 23 funeral services per day. We request that these services be kept under ten minutes in length.

  • The OIC and the casket team will look for you to step back to indicate that you are finished.

  • Following your courtside services, military honors will be rendered. Chaplains will position themselves directly behind the OIC to receive the flag to present to the primary next of kin (PNOK). Civilian leaders will stand to the side. Follow the OIC's lead in saluting (civilians: hand over heart).

  • Military funeral 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.

  • An Arlington Lady or service branch representative will offer condolences. You are welcome to do the same after the Arlington Lady or service branch representative.

At the Columbarium: The Niche

  • The Cemetery Representative will lead you and the family to the niche (the designated space in the wall where the urn is placed) for inurnment. The Cemetery Representative will show you the niche location as you walk. 

  • When all guests have arrived, 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 perform the committal service or its equivalent. Please conduct this very brief service according to 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 concluded, and invite guests to return to their cars.