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The Defense Department and Department of Veterans Affairs ensure that service members who die on active duty receive recognition and dignified burial services. The departments also offer help for their survivors.
In general, any honorably discharged service member is eligible to receive DOD or VA funeral and burial benefits. A dishonorable discharge makes a service member ineligible for those benefits. It is Defense Department policy that all service members’ remains are handled with dignity, honor and respect.
Mortuary services provided for active-duty deaths include:
- Recovery, evacuation, transportation and identification of remains.
- Return of personal effects. A legal representative of the service member’s estate is entitled to the personal effects. If no such person is identified, the primary next of kin is entitled to them and decides where they will be shipped or stored.
- Preparation and casketing of the service member.
- Transport of the deceased service member’s remains to the burial site.
- Transport of immediate family members to the burial site.
- When eligible, burial in a gravesite in a national or private cemetery (dependent on available space). Cremated remains are buried or placed into urns in cemeteries in the same manner and with the same honors as casketed remains.
Additional services that may be available include:
- Military funeral honors consisting of, at a minimum:
- Military representation (at least two service members, including one representative of the deceased veteran’s parent service)
- Ceremonial folding and presentation of the American flag to the next of kin
- Playing of Taps
- Burial flags. Provided at no cost, these drape the casket or may be displayed folded by the urn of a service member who served honorably in the military.
- Lapel buttons. These symbolize our appreciation of service members’ bravery and sacrifice to their country.
- The Gold Star Lapel Button is provided to the next of kin of service members who lost their lives while engaged in military actions against a foreign enemy.
- The Next of Kin Lapel Button is provided to the families of service members who lost their lives while on active duty or while serving in a drill status as a member of the National Guard or reserves.
- Presidential Memorial Certificate. The Presidential Memorial Certificate is a gold-embossed paper certificate provided by the VA to the next of kin and loved ones of deceased service members. It is signed by the current president of the United States to honor the memory of honorably discharged veterans.
- Government-furnished gravesite. The VA’s burial services for eligible veterans include a gravesite at any VA national cemetery, based on available space.
- Government-furnished headstones and markers. The VA will furnish a free government headstone or marker for the grave of any deceased eligible veteran in any cemetery around the world. Headstones and markers are also available for eligible spouses and dependents of veterans in a national, military installation or state veteran cemetery.
Military funeral honors, a hero’s tribute
Your loved one’s sacrifice will never be forgotten. This video, which includes a poem titled “A Hero’s Grace,” honors their sacrifice and faithful service. It also provides an overview for funeral planners of military funeral honors elements.