The Department of Defense and Department of Veterans Affairs ensure that service members who die on active duty receive recognition and dignified burial services. Furthermore, survivors are offered care and help.
In general, any service member discharged under conditions other than dishonorable is eligible to receive Department of Defense or Department of Veterans Affairs funeral and burial benefits. It is Department of Defense policy that all service members’ remains are handled with the utmost dignity and care.
The initial services provided by the Department of Defense or Department of Veterans Affairs for active-duty deaths include:
- Recovery, evacuation and initial 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.
- Transportation of the deceased service member’s remains to the burial site
- Temporary interment, only if absolutely necessary
- Transportation of immediate family members to the burial site
- Preparation and casketing of the service member
- When eligible, burial in a gravesite in a national or private cemetery with available space; cremated remains are buried or inurned, (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 consist of, at 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 and the playing of Taps. Additional elements such as a firing party or color guard may also be included.
- Burial flags, provided for free, drape the casket or urn of a service member who served honorably in the military.
- Lapel Buttons are a symbol of our appreciation of service members’ tremendous sacrifice to country and service, and of the families of these brave men and women. The Gold Star Lapel Button is provided to the next of kin of service members who lost their lives while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States, while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force. 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 — Provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Presidential Memorial Certificate is a gold-embossed paper certificate available to 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 Department of Veterans Affairs’ burial services for eligible veterans include a gravesite at any Department of Veterans Affairs national cemetery, based on space.
- Government-furnished headstones and markers — The Department of Veterans Affairs 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.