The Meaning Behind Military Honors
Over the course of the country’s history, military burial honors have evolved. The honors detailed here are the most common ones to be given at modern interment and memorial services involving a veteran.
Each honor guard team member fires three volleys. The tradition dates back centuries, when a cease-fire would occur during a fight, allowing each side to remove casualties from the battlefield. Afterwards, three volleys would be shot, signifying the dead had been removed and taken care of by their respective sides and the fight could continue.
Taps is a variation of an earlier military bugle call used to signal the time for troops to turn the lights out and end the day. Taps was first used during the Civil War to provide a tribute to the deceased.
Folding of the Flag
Removing the flag from the casket of the deceased and folding it with precise and quick movements into the recognizable triangle is a tribute to the tricorner hat worn by General George Washington and his men at the beginning of our country’s history. There are 13 folds, each with a symbolic meaning.
Spent Shell Casings
These represent the three rifle volleys fired. Many believe the three shell casings represent the phrase “duty, honor, country.” Casings are often given to the family as a memento.
Presenting the Flag
After the flag has been folded, a member of the Honor Guard team will formally present the flag to the family. Kneeling in front of the next of kin, the Guard member faces the long edge of the flag towards the family and says “on behalf of the President of the United States, the United States (Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, or 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.”
Tolling of the Honor Bell
During the casting of the Honor Bell, veterans’ artifacts were added to the molten bronze, becoming an integral part of this instrument. The artifacts represent past, present, and future veterans. The bell is tolled seven times, with seven seconds between each toll. These seven tolls, along with the seven stars on the bell, signify the veteran’s journey from birth through death.
A flag line serves to show respect and gratitude for the veteran’s service, and if needed, to shield the deceased’s family and friends from any interruptions caused by protestors and others.