FUNERAL HONORS UPDATE
As with the military itself, our armed forces' final
comrades is steeped in tradition and ceremony.
1. Prominent in a military funeral is the flag-draped
casket. The blue
field of the flag is placed at the head of the casket, over the left
shoulder of the deceased. The
custom began in the Napoleonic Wars of the
late 18th and early 19th centuries, when a flag was used to cover the
as they were taken from the battlefield on a caisson.
2. One will notice, during a military funeral that the
horses that pull
the caisson which bears the body of the veteran are all saddled, but the
horses on the left have riders,
while the horses on the right do not.
This custom evolved from the days when horse-drawn caissons were the
of moving artillery ammunition and cannon, and the
riderless horses carried provisions.
3. The single riderless horse that follows the caisson with boots
in the stirrups is called the "caparisoned horse" in reference
to its ornamental coverings, which have a detailed protocol
themselves. By tradition in military funeral honors, a caparisoned horse
follows the casket of an Army or Marine
Corps officer who was a colonel
or above, or the casket of a president, by virtue of having been the
commander in chief. The custom is believed to date
back to the time of Genghis Khan, when a horse was sacrificed
the fallen warrior in the next world. The caparisoned horse later came
to symbolize a warrior who would ride
no more. Abraham Lincoln, who was
killed in 1865, was the first U.S. president to be honored with a
at his funeral.
4. Graveside military honors include the firing of three volleys each
by seven service members.
This commonly is confused with an entirely
separate honor, the 21-gun salute. But the number of individual gun
in both honors evolved the same way.
a. The three volleys came from an old battlefield custom. The
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.
21-gun salute traces its roots to the Anglo-Saxon empire,
when seven guns constituted a recognized naval salute, as most
vessels had seven guns. Because gunpowder in those days could be more
easily stored on land than at sea, guns
on land could fire three rounds
for every one that could be fired by a ship at sea.
c. Later, as
gunpowder and storage methods improved, salutes at
sea also began using 21 guns. The United States at first used one round
for each state, attaining the 21-gun salute by 1818. The nation reduced
its salute to 21 guns in 1841, and formally adopted
the 21-gun salute at
the suggestion of the British in 1875.
5. A U.S. presidential death also involves other
ceremonial gun salutes
and military traditions. On the day after the death of the president, a
former president or president-elect
-- unless this day falls on a Sunday
or holiday, in which case the honor will rendered the following day --
of Army installations with the necessary personnel and
material traditionally order that one gun be fired every half hour,
at reveille and ending at retreat.
6. On the day of burial, a 21-minute gun salute traditionally is fired
at noon at all military installations with the necessary
personnel and material. Guns will be fired at one-minute intervals.
on the day of burial, those installations will fire a 50-gun salute --
one round for each state -- at five- second
following lowering of the flag.
7. The playing of "Ruffles and Flourishes" announces
the arrival of a
flag officer or other dignitary of honor. Drums play the ruffles, and
bugles play the flourishes -
one flourish for each star of the flag
officer's rank or as appropriate for the honoree's position or title.
is the highest honor.
When played for a president, "Ruffles and Flourishes" is followed by
"Hail to the Chief," which
is believed to have been written in England
in 1810 or 1811 by James Sanderson for a play by Sir Walter Scott called
Lady of the Lake." The play began to be performed in the United
States in 1812, the song became popular, and it became
a favorite of
bands at festive events. It evolved to be used as a greeting for
important visitors, and eventually for
the president, though no record
exists of when it was first put to that use.
8. The bugle call "Taps" originated in the Civil War with the Army
the Potomac. Union Army Brig. Gen. Daniel Butterfield didn't like the
bugle call that signaled soldiers in the camp
to put out the lights and
go to sleep, and worked out the melody of "Taps" with his brigade
bugler, Pvt. Oliver Wilcox
Norton. The call later came into another use
as a figurative call to the sleep of death for soldiers. Another
honor dates back only to the 20th century.
9. The missing-man formation usually is a four-aircraft formation with
No. 3 aircraft either missing or performing a pull-up maneuver and
leaving the formation to signify a lost comrade in arms.
While this can change slightly from service-to-service, and -- based
on preferences of family members, below is the standard
events for a military funeral at Arlington National Cemetery:
. The caisson or hearse arrives at grave
site, everyone presents arms.
. Casket team secures the casket, NCOIC, OIC and chaplain salute.
leads the way to grave site, followed by casket team.
. Casket team sets down the casket and secures the flag.
The NCOIC ensures the flag is stretched out and level, and centered
over the casket.
. NCOIC backs away
and the chaplain, military or civilian, will perform
. At conclusion of interment service and before
benediction, a gun
salute is fired for those eligible ( i.e. general officers).
. Chaplain concludes his service
and backs away, NCOIC steps up to the
. The NCOIC presents arms to initiate the rifle volley.
volley complete, bugler plays "Taps."
. Casket-team leader starts to fold the flag.
. Flag fold complete,
and the flag is passed to the NCOIC, OIC.
. Casket team leaves grave site.
. NCOIC, OIC either presents the flag to the next of kin, or if there
is a military chaplain on site he will present
the flag to the chaplain,
and then the chaplain will present to the next of kin.
. Arlington Lady presents card
of condolences to the next of kin.
. The only person remaining at the grave is one soldier, the vigil. His
is to watch over the body until it is interred into the ground.
Jul 07 ++]