Visiting Clergy Guide

Military Funeral Honors with Funeral Escort — Burial


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.

More about military funeral honors

Specific Information

The service will begin at a designated place, 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). At the Administration Building, 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.

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 casket to the caisson. 

  • Prepare to salute or to place your right hand over your heart (if you are in civilian dress) when the OIC does so. 

  • When the OIC moves to stand behind the casket team and 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 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 Gravesite

  • 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 (civilians) 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 (civilians) when the OIC salutes, and follow his or her lead on when to drop your hand.      

  • Stand near the small green metal marker, allowing enough room for the casket team and the OIC to move past you to the grave.

  • The casket team will position the remains over the grave and unfold the flag, holding it taut over the remains. The OIC will inspect and then take one step back. This is your cue to begin the religious services at the grave.

At the Gravesite

  • Please conduct your graveside services according to your religious tradition. Also, please be mindful of time; ANC schedules an average of 23 funeral services per day. Graveside 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.

  • The Cemetery Representative will announce that services have concluded, and invite guests to return to their cars.

  • If there is a curbside salute, follow the OIC's lead in standing by the curb and saluting (civilians: right hand over heart).