Who gets the flag at a military funeral? The next of kin appointed by the veteran or deceased service member receives the flag. There shouldn’t be any dispute as to whom the flag goes to, as this should have been arranged before the death.
But some circumstances warrant different protocols, and as with any military ceremony, there are procedures and etiquette to be observed. In this article, we’ll outline all the things you need to know about receiving the official burial flag and arranging a proper military funeral.
Table of Contents
- Military Funeral Flag
- Who Receives the Flag at a Military Funeral?
- Next of Kin, Line of Succession & Other Circumstances
- After the Funeral: What to Do With Burial Flag
- Donating Military Burial Flags
- The Emotional Impact of the Flag Presentation
- How to Receive a Burial Flag
- Protocol for Flag Presentation
- The Burial Flag Presentation Ceremony
- Frequently Asked Questions
Military Funeral Flag
A military burial flag is offered at no cost to the beeraved loved ones of the passed serviceman or woman as a ceremonial token of appreciation from the US Army, the United States, and the President.
The flag for deceased veteran is either draped on top of a casket or paired with an urn. This isn’t the flag flown on flag poles. Instead, the burial flag is made out of cotton, not weather-proofed, and not advisable to be used out in the elements as it can be easily destroyed.
Who Receives the Flag at a Military Funeral?
Eligibility for Receiving a Burial Flag
Deceased veterans who have served in the US military in specific capacities are also awarded this honor. The US military specifies eligible veterans as:
- Those served in war or beyond January 31, 1955
- Killed in active duty (Beyond May 27, 1941)
- Selected Reserves members (Former or at the time of death)
- Armed Forces that died on or after April 25, 1951 in what was then the Commonwealth of the Philippines
- Enlisted and honorably discharged before June 27, 1950; left after serving or due to disability
If the veteran falls into any of the categories above, the deceased veteran and their family or listed next of kin will be offered a military burial flag at their funeral.
A ceremony also accompanies the presentation of the flag and depending on the branch of the military, traditions and rituals could differ.
Next of Kin, Line of Succession & Other Circumstances
Who is eligible for a burial flag? Could just any family member or friend request a military flag for a deceased loved one’s burial?
1. Primary recipient: Next of kin
At the time of deployment, military members are asked to appoint their next of kin. This is usually in written form and could include one or more people.
Contrary to popular belief, the surviving spouse or parents aren’t always the next of kin servicemembers chooses.
The next of kin (NoK) is the closest relative, appointed by the veteran or killed servicemen or women before death.
2. Alternate recipients & special circumstances
If the listed next of kin is not available or is deceased as well, the next, next of kin should receive the flag. The US military considers a line of succession to notify and offer the flag to.
The order of succession for receiving the burial flag is as follows:
- Wife or Husband
- Dependents. The soldier’s child gets flag, starting from the oldest son
- Parents. Eldest to youngest
- Legal Guardians or close relatives
- Grandparents. Eldest to youngest
In circumstances where none of the people mentioned above are available, close friends or any other family member can accept the flag on the next of kin’s behalf at the funeral.
If you have been appointed, you will be the one notified and offered a folded flag.
After the Funeral: What to Do With Burial Flag
1. Received funeral flags
Families that receive a flag often fold it into a triangle and display it in their homes. It is a visual tribute to their fallen loved ones and is a good decorative piece to honor their memory.
Usually, the flags are framed or placed inside a shadow box with other memorabilia or personal items of the deceased soldier.
2. Flag ownership
When a flag is given to the next of kin, it is legally their property. They may do whatever they wish with the item. They can give it away, donate it, or pass it on to whomever they like.
If the next of kin passes and the flag is still in their possession, it is not legally required to be passed on to the service member’s family members or friends.
3. Requesting another flag
Unfortunately, if a flag is lost, destroyed, or becomes misplaced, the military cannot entertain any requests to replace it. The only case where the VA will offer a new flag is if it was defective upon receipt. You must take care of the flag otherwise or approach a veterans organization for assistance to acquire a new one.
Donating Military Burial Flags
Some recipients donate the flags for events like Memorial Day and other veteran-related occasions. During special events and patriotic holidays coordinated by the Department of Veterans Affairs, donated flags are displayed in national cemeteries.
In exchange for donating their burial flags, the Department of Veterans will give the family or next of kin a “Certificate of Appreciation”.
The Emotional Impact of the Flag Presentation
There are different kinds of funeral honors, which are given depending on the status of the deceased and the military branch they served.
The military is big with symbolism. In fact, the flag folding process symbolizes numerous things from “undying loyalty” to “eternal life.”
According to the US Department of Veterans, the meaning of flag drapped coffin is to honor the memory of the fallen soldier and his or her sacrifice.
The United States government and US Army present this flag to honor veterans and military servicemen for their sacrifices in protecting the country. Families get to see the respect and appreciation given to their loved ones by their military brothers and sisters.
How to Receive a Burial Flag
You must fill up and complete an application for the United States flag for burial purposes or the VA Form 27-2008.
Once completed, you may take the form to the closest Veterans Affairs office. You can also claim the flag at a post office nearby, but it’s best to call ahead to make sure they have burial flags available.
Burial flags are free, so never fall for anyone asking for money in exchange for a loved one’s burial flag.
For more information on how to obtain a burial flag, visit the Veterans website through this link www.va.gov/burials-memorials/memorial-items/burial-flags/.
Protocol for Flag Presentation
- For veterans at the time of death
At the time of death, the family or next of kin arranges for a military burial.
You must fill out and send in a form requesting a burial flag. If requested by the US post office, the availability of burial flags needs to be confirmed beforehand.
At the burial, a flag-folding ceremony is held and after which, the flag is handed to the next of kin.
- For soldiers killed in active duty
Military officers will visit the listed next of kin’s residence to inform them of the service member’s passing. Condolences will be issued, and a flag will be presented.
The military and the next of kin then arrange for the funeral and burial. The flag presentation will go on as normal.
The Burial Flag Presentation Ceremony
Here’s a detailed process of what happens during a military burial and subsequent flag presentation:
- The flag is draped over the casket. The funeral detail is the one who unfold a military funeral flag and who puts flags on veterans’ graves.
- The casket coach delivers the deceased to the cemetery.
- A three-volley gun salute is fired. This symbolizes the deceased’s weapon will never see action again.
- TAPS is played on a bugle.
- The draped flag is removed from the casket.
- The flag-folding ceremony is performed.
- The folded flag is presented to the chaplain, who gives it to the military member’s next of kin and delivers the official language while presenting the flag at a military funeral.
On April 12, 2012, the Department of Defense mandated the official words to be used during funeral honor ceremonies and flag presentations. The language is as follows:
“On behalf of the president of the United States, (the US Army; the US Marine Corps; the US Navy; the UStates Air Force or the US Coast Guard), and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.”
Frequently Asked Questions
What size is a burial flag?
The size of burial flag is 5 x 9.5 feet. It is mostly for decorative purposes only as a symbol of one’s service to the US military and country.
Do all veterans get a flag at their funerals?
Not really. They must be honorably discharged and fall into the defined categories specified by the military to be eligible for a burial flag.
How should the flag be displayed after the funeral?
Flags used during a military funeral cannot be opened again. It is why many loved ones of the deceased military member’s family display the flag in its original tri-fold shape after they receive the flag.
What should be done with a worn or damaged flag from a military funeral?
The military is only legally required to give a single flag for every burial. You should take good care of your flag once you receive it.
The best way to protect it is to have it framed behind glass.
Now, if you ever get it damaged, you can seek help from a seamstress or dispose of it.
Where can I get a military flag folded?
Flag stores would be your best bet if you want your flag to be refolded militarily. A simple search would also turn up tutorials on how you can do it yourself.
Can a burial flag be flown?
A burial flag is not made of materials that can resist the outdoor element. However, as stated, it can certainly be flown during special occasions at cemeteries.
Now that you know who gets the flag at a military funeral (as well as the line of succession if the next-of-kin isn’t available), there shouldn’t be an issue of claims anymore. After all, your recently-departed loved one’s military service and their great service for the country should be the focus.
John Cotton is Safecallnow’s copywriter. He is an authority on research and reviews. He is responsible for locating information and guidance on riot and disturbance control equipment, training equipment, correctional products, watch house products, tactical equipment, government regulation information, and more. His work guarantees a high level of proficiency and authority.