Military Funeral Customs

Image of military funeral customs.

Standard Honor

Standard honor is a military funeral custom that is commonly used to honor standard members of the military. Standard military honor includes:

  • A military chaplain
  • An American flag draped over the casket
  • A team of honor guards to carry the casket
  • Fighter jets provide a ceremonial flyover for members of the Air Force.
  • Formational rifle firing – 3 to 7 shots depending on the military member’s rank.
  • Playing of Taps

Full Honor

Full honor is a military funeral custom that is given to commanding officers of Colonel/Captain and above. All of the standard military funeral customs still apply, with these additional honors.

  • Officer caskets are transported in a horse drawn caisson and limber. A rider less horse will follow, which represents a fallen leader.
  • An escort platoon and military band are present
  • Depending on the rank of the officer, a 17 gun, 15 gun, 13 gun or 11 gun salute is fired.

Draping the American Flag over the Casket

Image of American flags draped over numerous caskets.

The blue star field is always placed at the head of the casket and covers the left shoulder. Keep in mind that it is proper flag etiquette to never let the flag touch the ground.

Flag Folding

Image of an American flag folding ceremony at a military funeral.

The flag is folded 12 times by 6 honor guards, 3 on each side of the flag/casket. We have covered how to fold the American flag in a past blog post.

21 Gun Salute

Image of a 21 gun salute at a military funeral.

This military funeral custom involves firing cannons and/or artillery pieces at the funeral service. This type of honor is typically used at the funerals for high ranking officers or government officials. This custom represents trust and respect to the fallen hero.

Three-Volley Salute

Image of a three volley salute at a military funeral.

Not to be confused with the 21 gun salute, the three-volley salute is a military funeral custom that consists of a rifle party firing three shots into the air. The rifle party always fires their weapon over the casket. If the funeral is held indoors, the rifle party stands outside near the main entrance.


Taps is a musical piece that is played at military funerals. This military funeral custom is played at dusk, typically with a trumpet or bugle. The tune is sometimes referred to as “Day is Done”, or Butterfield’s Lullaby”.

Sources: Wikipedia | Arlington National Cemetery

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