Frequently Asked Questions
- What are Military Honors?
- Is there a cost for Military Funeral Honors?
- Who is eligible for Military Funeral Honors?
- Who is ineligible for Military Funeral Honors?
- Who is responsible for making arrangements for Military Funeral Honors?
- What do I need to provide in order to receive Military Funeral Honors?
- What if I have lost or misplaced proof of military service?
- What happens if we cannot supply documentation?
- What comprises a Military Funeral Honors detail?
- How does a Military Funeral work? What can I expect?
- How can I arrange for more ceremonial support?
- What is our Federal Mandate?
- What is the Maryland Military Department?
- What is the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs?
- What are the Maryland burial benefits?
- Why is the casket draped with a U.S. flag and why is it folded into a triangle shape?
- How is the flag folded?
- How is the flag presented?
- Who is eligible for a burial flag?
- What is the history and tradition of Taps?
- What is the rifle salute? Is that considered a 21 gun salute?
- Who may receive a Presidential Memorial Certificate and how do I order one?
- How can I join the Maryland National Guard Honor Guard?
What are Military Honors?
The Department of Defense (DoD) defines Military Funeral Honors as ďthe ceremonial paying of respect and the final demonstration of the countryís gratitude to those who, in times of war and peace, have faithfully defended our Nation.Ē Members of the Maryland National Guard Funeral Honors detail fold and present the American flag to the veteranís survivor and Taps is sounded. All eligible veterans are entitled to Military Honors and they are rendered to those military veterans who qualify.
Is there a cost for Military Funeral Honors?
No, this is a benefit provided to all Maryland Veterans who are honorably Discharged. The MDNGHG is honored to perform Military Funeral Honors to our Maryland veterans throughout the State.
Who is eligible for Military Funeral Honors?
Veterans who fall under the following:
- Military members on active duty or in the Selected Reserve.
- Retired military members.
- Military veterans who served on active duty and departed under conditions other than dishonorable.
- Military veterans who completed at least one term of enlistment or period of initial obligated service in the Selected Reserve and departed under conditions other than dishonorable.
- Military veterans discharged from the Selected Reserve due to a disability incurred or aggravated in the line of duty.
There are other categories that fall under the broad term of ďVeteranĒ including certain members of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Regular or Reserve Corps of the Public Health Service. For more information regarding eligibility please contact us.
Who is ineligible for Military Funeral Honors?
Veterans are ineligible if they are convicted of federal or state capital offenses and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole or receive the death penalty. They are also ineligible if they were discharged from the military under dishonorable conditions. These conditions include dishonorable discharge, bad conduct discharge, dismissal from the service awarded by court-martial, other than honorable conditions discharge, and for officers, resignation for the good of the service in lieu of courts-martial, which results in a discharge characterization of other than honorable conditions.
Who is responsible for making arrangements for Military Funeral Honors?
Honors are not performed automatically; they must be requested. Families of eligible veterans must request Funeral Honors through their funeral director. The funeral director will contact the Maryland National Guard Honor Guard to arrange for the Military Funeral Honors detail.
What do I need to provide in order to receive Military Funeral Honors?
You must provide proof of military service to your funeral director. This proof is usually in the form of documents issued at the end of military service. The most common include DD Form 214 and NGB Form 22.
A list of acceptable documents used to establish honorable active military service can be found at: http://www.cem.va.gov/hmm/discharge_documents.asp
What if I have lost or misplaced proof of military service?
The document verifying military service is very important in establishing benefits each veteran is due. They should be safeguarded and made available at the time of need. Itís best to make sure your family knows where to find it when the time comes. If a document is lost it can be replaced by requesting a new one.
The following website will assist in locating documentation: http://www.archives.gov/research_room/vetrecs/index.html
A copy of the most common record, the DD Form 214, may be obtained by filling out a Standard Form 180 and sending it to:
National Personnel Records Center (NPRC)
9700 Page Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63132
You can download the form 180 from: http://www.archives.gov/st-louis/military-personnel/standard-form-180.html
Recently, the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) has provided a website for veterans to gain access to their DD Form 214: http://www.archives.gov/veterans/evetrecs/index.html
For many Maryland National Guard veterans, records are archived at the 5th Regiment Armory in Baltimore. If you served with the Maryland National Guard or Air Guard and need to obtain a copy of your military records you can contact the archivist at (410)576-6120 or Fax (410)576-6006.
What happens if we cannot supply documentation?
As required by Federal and State guidelines, documentation verifying proof of military service must be provided to your funeral director before Military Funeral Honors can be scheduled. If verification cannot be provided to the Maryland National Guard before the close of business the day before the schedule funeral, Military Funeral Honors cannot be rendered. We will try and work with families as much as possible to insure that honors are rendered and will be honored to offer the services at a later date when the documentation is located. However, it is the responsibility of the veteran, veteranís family or designated authority (such as a power of attorney), not the MDNGHG, to secure the documentation and provide it to the funeral director. This website will help point you in the right director to get those valuable documents.
What comprises a Military Funeral Honors detail?
At the minimum Military Funeral Honors consist of flag folding and presentation to the next of kin and bugler to sound Taps. A firing party can be part of the honors as well as casket bearers and a colors team. These honors are performed by at least 2 members of the armed forces with one member being a member of the deceased service.
Maryland provides three types of honors details:
-Three Person Detail. The Three Person Detail consists of two military personnel and a live bugler to sound Taps, if available. These honors are available to all honorably discharged veterans.
-Seven Person Detail. The Seven Person Detail consists of six military personnel and a livebugler to sound Taps, if available. These honors are available to all retired service members, National Guard or Reserve Soldiers not killed in action and Active Duty Soldiers not killed in action.
-Full Honors Detail. This detail can consist up to as many as 21 members and may include a firing party as well as casket bearers, a colors team and a chaplain. Also a live bugler will sound Taps. Full Honors are reserved for those who die on Active Duty, Medal of Honor recipients, General Officers and E-9s.
How does a Military Funeral work? What can I expect?
Once a mission to perform Military Funeral Honors has been accepted and scheduled, the Funeral Honors Detail will contact the funeral home to verify information regarding the service such as date, time, location and other pertinent information to insure the success of the mission. Any special requests should be cleared through your funeral director before the detail arrives at the cemetery. The Funeral Honors Detail usually arrives at the location of the service 1 hour prior and inspects the area so they can perform the honors with the utmost respect and dignity. They will coordinate with the funeral director and minister to insure the service is conducted with solemnity. At the time of Military Honors, it is proper to stand and place your hand over your heart as Taps is sounded. At the conclusion of Taps, the flag is folded and presented to the next of kin. One flag is presented and the person receiving the flag accepts it on "on behalf of a grateful nation."
Our Maryland National Guard Honor Guardsmen perform this duty with the highest reverence and consider it an honor to be part of the final tribute to those who have served our country. Rendering Military Funeral Honors reflects the high regard and respect accorded to military service and demonstrates military professionalism to the nation and the world.
How can I arrange for more ceremonial support?
Historically, local Veteran Service Organizations (VSO) or other Authorized Provider Partnership Program Guidance (AP3 Providers) have performed Military Funeral Honors in the place of armed forces personnel. They sometimes augment a Military Funeral Honors detail provided by one of the military services. For example, a VSO might provide a firing party or provide a colors team. This voluntary assistance would be in addition to the services provided by the Maryland National Guard Honor Guard. If you have a VSO or AP3 provider interested in assisting the MDNGHG, please ask your funeral director to contact the MDNGHG at the information provided so the ceremony can be correctly coordinated.
What is our Federal Mandate?
The Department of Defense (DoD) is mandated by title 10, Chapter 75, section 1491, U.S.C. to provide Military Funeral Honors. The law requires the availability of a Funeral Honors Detail for eligible veterans and describes what is required of DoD in the rendering of Military Funeral Honors.
What is the Maryland Military Department?
The Maryland National Guard Honor Guard falls under the Maryland Military Department . The State mission of the Maryland Military Department is to provide highly trained personnel, equipment, and facilities capable of protecting life and property and preserving peace, order, and public safety with rapid response for the Governor and the citizen's of Maryland. They work with local, state and federal agencies to support rapid recovery efforts in the event of a natural or man-made disaster. They are committed to provide a total team effort to mitigate the consequences of a sudden catastrophe that threatens the citizens of Maryland and their resources. In addition, we actively seek to provide a highly capable military force by leveraging state funds to gain federal assets. The Federal mission is to be prepared to defend the nation and it's vital national security interest upon mobilization by the President for the citizens of the United States by supporting the active military forces. They accomplish this by maintaining a high level of personnel, training and equipment readiness. Headquarters for the Military Department State of Maryland is located at the 5th Regiment Armory, 29th Division Street, Baltimore Maryland. This headquarters services both Army and Air National Guard units based in Maryland.
More information can be found at the Maryland Military Department website.
What is the Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs?
The Maryland Department of Veterans Affairs is an Executive Department in Maryland State Government with a service mission to:
- Provide representation to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The Agency also provides referrals to other federal, Maryland State and local government agencies for benefits which may be available to eligible individuals.
- Manage and operate authorized Maryland State Veterans Cemeteries and a Civil War Cemetery.
- Maintain and care for memorials for the Maryland Vietnam, Korean, and World War II Veterans.
- Manage Charlotte Hall Veterans Home
- Provide staff support and assistance to State Veterans Commissions
Their website is: http://www.mdva.state.md.us/
What are the Maryland burial benefits?
Veterans who are residents of the State of Maryland and have received an honorable discharge and their eligible dependents are eligible for burial at one of Marylandís five veterans cemeteries. Plots are available on a first-come, first-served basis. There is no cost to the veteran for burial plot, opening/closing, headstone and state liner (if used). Eligible dependents have a minimal opening/closing cost and a direct cost for state liner (if used). There is a pre-interment program where veterans can indicate their desire to be buried in one of the five state veterans cemeteries and verify their eligibility for burial by filling out a pre-interment application. More information on Maryland Veteran Burial Benefits can be found at: http://www.mdva.state.md.us/state/burialBenefits.html
Why is the casket draped with a U.S. flag and why is it folded into a triangle shape?
A United States flag drapes the casket of deceased veterans to honor the memory of their service to America. The flag is placed so that the blue field with stars is at the head and over the left shoulder of the deceased. The custom of draping the casket began in the Napoleonic Wars of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, when a flag was used to cover the dead as they were taken from the battlefield on a caisson. The position of the blue field is reversed to indicate mourning with the blue field on the right as the flag faces the coffin. It may be said that the flag is embracing the deceased who in life has served the flag. Today, the American Flag that covered the casket symbolizes the deceased service in the Armed Forces of the United States of America.
How is the flag folded?
Instructions on folding the flag can be found at: http://www.usflag.org/foldflag.html
How is the flag presented?
After Taps has sounded, the flag is carefully folded into the symbolic tri-cornered shape. A properly proportioned flag will fold 13 times on the triangles, representing the 13 original colonies. The folded flag is emblematic of the tri-cornered hat worn by the Patriots of the American Revolution. When folded, no red or white stripe is to be evident, leaving only the blue field with stars.
The folded flag is then presented as a keepsake to the next of kin or an appropriate family member. Each branch of the Armed Forces uses its own wording for the presentation:
U.S. Army: "This flag is presented on behalf of a grateful nation and the United States Army as a expression of appreciation for your loved oneís honorable and faithful service."
U.S. Marine Corps: "On behalf of the President of the United States, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved oneís service to Country and Corps."
U.S. Navy: "On behalf of the President of the United States and the Chief of Naval Operations, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one's service to this Country and a grateful Navy."
U.S. Air Force: "On behalf of the President of the United States, the Department of the Air Force, and a grateful nation, we offer this flag for the faithful and dedicated service of (Service Memberís rank and name)."
U.S. Coast Guard: "On behalf of the President of the United States, the Commandant of the Coast Guard, and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved oneís service to Country and the Coast Guard."
Who is eligible for a burial flag?
The VA establishes eligibility for flags. Your funeral director will assist you in obtaining a flag. More information can be found at: http://www.cem.va.gov/cem/bbene/bflags.asp
What is the history and tradition of Taps?
Taps is the bugle call sounded at funerals. The call originated during the Civil War and is sounded every night at US military installations around the words as well as used as the final call at military funerals and memorial services.
Of all the military bugle calls, none is so easily recognized or more apt to evoke emotion than Taps. Up to the Civil War, the traditional call at dayís end was a call borrowed from the French, called "Extinguish Lights." In July of 1862, in the aftermath of the bloody Seven Days battles, hard on the loss of 600 men and wounded himself, Union General Daniel Adams Butterfield called the brigade bugler to his tent. He thought "Extinguish Lights" was too formal and he wished to honor his men.
Oliver Willcox Norton, the bugler, tells the story, "...showing me some notes on a staff written in pencil on the back of an envelope, (he) asked me to sound them on my bugle. I did this several times, playing the music as written. He changed it somewhat, lengthening some notes and shortening others, but retaining the melody as he first gave it to me. After getting it to his satisfaction, he directed me to sound that call for Taps thereafter in place of the regulation call. The music was beautiful on that still summer night and was heard far beyond the limits of our Brigade. The next day I was visited by several buglers from neighboring Brigades, asking for copies of the music which I gladly furnished. The call was gradually taken up through the Army of the Potomac."
This more emotive and powerful Taps was soon adopted throughout the military. In 1874 the music was printed in U.S. Army manuals as the final call for the day.
How did the call become associated with funerals? The earliest official reference to the mandatory use of Taps at military funeral ceremonies is found in the U.S. Army Infantry Drill Regulations for 1891, although it had doubtless been used unofficially long before that time, under its former designation "Extinguish Lights."
Willcox wrote: "There is something singularly beautiful and appropriate in the music of this wonderful call. Its strains are melancholy, yet full of rest and peace. Its echoes linger in the heart long after its tones have ceased to vibrate in the air."
The origin of the word "Taps" is thought to have come from the Dutch word for "Tattoo" - "Taptoe." More than likely, "Taps" comes from the three drum taps that were played as a signal for "Extinguish Lights" when a bugle was not used. As with many other customs, the twenty-four notes that comprise this solemn tradition began long ago and continue to this day.
While there are no official lyrics for Taps, the following unofficial verse (author unknown) is often used:
Day is done, gone the sun,
From the lake, from the hills, from the sky;
All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.
In recent years, the Ceremonial Bugle, which uses a digital recording of Taps has been utilized by military honor guards as well as American Legion, VFWs and other Veteran Service Organizations. The Maryland National Guard Honor Guard prides itself on the tradition of using live buglers primarily and uses the digital recording only as a last resort. We will do our utmost to honor the request to have Taps sounded by a live bugler.
What is the rifle salute? Is that considered a 21 gun salute?
Graveside military honors can include the firing of three volleys consisting of anywhere from three to seven riflemen plus the NCOIC of the detail. This commonly is confused with an entirely separate honor, the 21-gun salute. But the number of individual gun firings in both honors evolved the same way. The three volleys came from an old battlefield custom. The two warring sides would cease hostilities to clear their dead from the battlefield, and the firing of three volleys meant that the dead had been properly cared for and the side was ready to resume the battle. The tradition of firing three volleys also has its roots in ancient rituals where three shouts or noises were made to chase evil spirits from the grave.
The tradition of 21-gun salute began as naval one to honor passing vessels. Today guns (or cannons) are fired to honor general officers, and high elected officials such as the president, vice president and state governors. The highest number 21 is used only to salute the president, although a 50-gun is fired on Independence Day and on the death of a president.
Information on Salutes, Honors and Visits of Courtesy is covered under Army Regulation 600-25, 24 September 2004. For a copy of that regulation click here Army Regulation 600-25
Who may receive a Presidential Memorial Certificate and how do I order one?
A Presidential Certificate is a parchment certificate with an engraved inscription expressing the nationís grateful recognition of an honorably discharged, deceased veteranís service in the Armed Forces. The veteranís name is inscribed and the certificate bears the signature of the President of the United States. Honorably discharged veterans are eligible to receive this certificate. The family may request a Presidential Memorial Certificate either in person, at any VA regional office, by fax or by mail. There is no form to fill out when requesting this certificate. When requesting by mail or fax, enclose a written request with a return address, a copy of the veteranís discharge document and a certificate of death. These documents will not be returned. Allow 6 to 8 weeks to receive the certificate. Funeral directors are authorized to request Presidential Certificates by email, families are not.
Presidential Memorial Certificate (402E12)
National Cemetery Administration
810 Vermont Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20420-0001
Phone: (202) 565-4964
Fax: (202) 565-8054
More information can be found at http://www.cem.va.gov/pmc.asp
How can I join the Maryland National Guard Honor Guard?
Current Available Positions:
Honor Guard Specialist I Ė Responsible for providing military honors in a team environment.
- Must be able to lift fifty pounds and stand for long periods of time.
- Must be current members of the Maryland National Guard or retired from military service.
- Must have an impeccable military record and be among the best in order to be a member of the Maryland National Guard Honor Guard.
- Must have a valid Maryland Drivers License
Interested individuals may contact the headquarters.
Positions are also advertised on the Maryland Military Department website.