Visiting Clergy Guide

Military Funeral Honors with Funeral Escort — Columbarium Inurnment



General Information

Military funeral honors with funeral escort 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 the U.S. flag

  • 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. 

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Specific Information

The service will begin at a designated point, called a transfer point. The religious leader conducting the service should go to the Administration Building at least 30 minutes prior to the funeral, which will allow 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 additional information, please contact the Cemetery Representative upon arrival.

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

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. ANC uses a special casket, already placed on the caisson, to hold the urn. 

  • Prepare to salute (military) or place your right hand over your heart (civilian) when the OIC does so. 

  • When the OIC moves to stand behind the casket team and to inspect the casket, do not move. Instead, stand where you are and continue to hold your salute or hand over your heart. When you hear the command "Order Arms," drop your hand.

  • When the OIC salutes and begins to move along the caisson to the front, salute or place your right hand over your heart, and move past the caisson to the front, dropping your hand when in front of the flag-draped coffin. Then, move to a point well in front of the caisson, along the side of the road, in order to take your place in the funeral procession.

To the Columbarium

  • Wait by the side of the road until the marching units, including the band and marching platoon, go past.

  • Salute (military) or place your right hand over your heart (civilian) when the flag goes past.

  • Walk, do 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. 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; walk to and stand alongside the OIC.

  • Salute (military) or place your right hand over your heart (civilian) when the OIC salutes, and follow his or her 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.

  • 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 (civilian: right hand over 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 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 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.

  • 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. Courtside services should 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: For a general officer funeral, there is customarily a series of cannon fires at the end of the graveside service. Just before your final prayer, benediction or last few words, please step back and wait until the cannon fire is over. After the command "Order Arms," please step forward and offer your final words. 

  • Following your service, 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: right 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 a member of the casket team, who will then march off to the front.

  • Presentation of the flag: The OIC, or a designated military representative, will turn and present the folded flag to to the PNOK (normally seated on the left front seat). When presenting the flag, the OIC will state: "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. 

  • 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 for inurnment. 

  • 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.