How to Arrange a Military Honor Guard for a Burial at Sea
Families come to Teraloom when they want both a burial at sea and a Military Honor Guard. Military.com states “Families of eligible veterans request funeral honors through their funeral director. The funeral director will contact the appropriate Military Service to arrange for the funeral honors detail.” But as is often the case, the burial at sea is planned for a location other than where the initial funeral and cremation took place. In years past it was easy to locate the correct contact phone number online based on State, County and Branch of Service, however that information is no longer available to the public.
Military Honor Guard
If your loved one was a member of the military and is eligible to receive Military Benefits, you may be able to coordinate a Military Honor Guard dockside to perform Taps and the Flag Folding Ceremony. The Military Service is typically scheduled about 30 minutes before the vessel’s departure time.
Burial at Sea and an Honor Guard
I’m often asked if the honor guard can come on board, and in some cases they will. Because these individuals answer to a commanding officer, he or she may not allow it because even commercial vessels the host funerals at sea are considered private (non-military) and the commanding officer has the final say. That said, we do know several families that were able to arrange for the honor guard to board. This determination varies office to office, so if the vessel allows for the extra passenger capacity, we say it’s worth asking.
The Honor Guard
Two individuals, one from the branch of service your loved one served with, will play Taps on either a bugle or on a CD player.
The Flag Folding Ceremony
Each of the 13 folds of the flag holds great significance.
1-The first fold of our flag is a symbol of life.
2-The second fold signifies our belief in eternal life.
3-The third fold is made in honor and tribute of the veteran departing our ranks, and who gave a portion of his or her life for the defense of our country to attain peace.
4-The fourth fold exemplifies our weaker nature as citizens trusting in God; it is to Him we turn for His divine guidance.
5-The fifth fold is an acknowledgment to our country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, “Our country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right, but it is still our country, right or wrong.”
6-The sixth fold is for where our hearts lie. It is with our heart that we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
7-The seventh fold is a tribute to our armed forces, for it is through the armed forces that we protect our country and our flag against all enemies.
8-The eighth fold is a tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day, and to honor our mother, for whom it flies on Mother’s Day.
9-The ninth fold is an honor to womanhood, for it has been through their faith, love, loyalty, and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great have been molded.
10-The 10th fold is a tribute to father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country since he or she was first-born.
11-The 11th fold, in the eyes of Hebrew citizens, represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon and glorifies, in their eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
12-The 12th fold, in the eyes of a Christian citizen, represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in their eyes, God the Father, the Son, and Holy Ghost.
13-The last fold, when the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost, reminding us of our national motto, “In God We Trust."
The best method for verifying eligibility is the DD Form 214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty. If the DD Form 214 is not available, any discharge document showing other than dishonorable service can be used. The DD Form 214 may be obtained by requesting it online from the National Archives.