Military Funeral Traditions, in Honor of Memorial Day

Military GravesMost movies with military funerals show either a 21-gun salute or the presentation of the American flag to a grieving widow. Those honors are an important part of military funerals but are hardly the only official designations designed to celebrate fallen military men and women. In honor of Memorial Day, we wanted to blog about several long-standing traditions designed to celebrate deceased service members and veterans, as well as their families.

Flags for our Fathers (& Mothers)

The associated branch of the military provides the American flag for anyone who dies on active duty. The Department of Veteran’s Affairs provide flags for other veterans. A military chaplain usually presents the flag to next-of-kin at the end of the funeral. If next of kin are unavailable, the chaplain may present the flag to the veteran’s close friend or associate upon request.Military Flag Honors

Memorial Flag Trivia: The flags that draped the caskets of the Unknown Soldiers are displayed in the Memorial Display Room of the Memorial Amphitheater.

Military Cannon SalutesMilitary Canon Salutes

Firing cannon salutes originated in the British Navy. Firing a cannon partially disarmed the ship. So, firing a cannon came to symbolize respect and trust.

Three Rifle Volleys over the Military Graves

This practice stems from the antiquated custom of halting the fighting to remove dead bodies from the battlefield. After each army cleared its dead, soldiers would fire three volleys to indicate that the dead were cared for so fighting could commence. Despite that the firing party consists of seven riflemen, firing three volleys does not constitute a 21-gun salute.Military Salute

21-Gun Salute

Personal salutes can be traced to the prevailing use of the salute in earlier days to ensure that the person who was saluting placed himself in an unarmed position. Salute-by-gunfire is an ancient ceremony. For years, the British compelled weaker nations to salute first. Eventually, international practice compelled “Gun for Gun,” all in the name of equality of nations.

Early on, seven guns was a recognized British National Salute. Those early regulations stated that, although a ship could fire only seven guns, the forts could fire (for honors) three shots to one shot afloat. In that day, powder of sodium nitrate was easier to keep on shore than at sea. In time, when the quality of gun powder improved, the sea salute equalled the shore salute — 21 guns – the highest national honor.

TapsMilitary Honors in Death

The Union Army’s Brig. Gen. Daniel composed the tune while at camp in Harrison’s Landing, Va. He wrote the call to replace the earlier “Tattoo” (lights out), which he believed was too formal. In the absence of a bugler, soldiers tapped out the replacement song. The U.S. Army call officially adopted the song in 1874.

Portions of the above were adapted from U.S. Army Military District of Washington.

About Foothill Funeral & Cremation

Military Funeral ComfortWe love helping families, however they choose to legally handle their loved one’s remains. Call us now or at your time of need (626) 335-0615. Feel free to drop by our Glendora showroom. Our relationship with United Methodist Church is the perfect place for mourners to host funerals and memorials. You’ll love the grandiose yet intimate setting. We proudly serve the San Gabriel Valley, San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles Basin, Orange County and the Inland Empire. Working in the mortuary industry since 1996, we have worked hard to build a reputation of quality, sincerity and trust. Please allow us to help you at your time of need or in the future. Call today (626) 335-0615 or contact us via email.

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