Military Involvement in State Funerals

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- While each former president is entitled to a state funeral, the desires of family members are always paramount.

Once the President announces his regret and joins the nation in paying homage during this solemn observance, the Secretary of Defense is designated as his representative for planning a State Funeral. The Secretary of Defense, in turn, has designated the Secretary of the Army, as the senior military service, to be his representative.

The Secretary of the Army has designated the commanding general of the Military District of Washington, as his representative. The commander of the MDW is responsible for making all ceremonial arrangements for the funeral in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere in the continental United States.

Each of the Armed Forces provides members and support to the Military District of Washington. Support includes an Armed Forces Honor Guard.

Historically, this special ceremonial unit has participated in the state funerals for former presidents Kennedy, Eisenhower, Truman, Johnson and Nixon. A state funeral was also held for the Vietnam Unknown in 1984.

As a past commander-in-chief of the U.S. military, former presidents are traditionally accorded a variety of military honors. These customs and courtesies are extended as requested by the immediate family and include:

Military escort for the immediate family -- customarily the commanding general of the Military District of Washington serves as the military escort for the former president's immediate family from the time of death until burial. Maj. Gen. Galen B. Jackman will serve in this capacity.

Guard of Honor --an Armed Forces team that provides security for the remains when they are in repose or lying in state. The guard also renders honor through their presence at each of the armed services funeral locations. Guard of Honor members are based in Washington, D.C., and belong to ceremonial detachments for the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard. They routinely participate in ceremonies at the White House, national memorials and Arlington National Cemetery.

Armed Forces body bearers --an Armed Forces team that carries the casket as required during the armed services funeral.

21-gun salute --on the day of interment, a 21-gun salute will be fired commencing at noon at all military installations equipped with the necessary personnel and materiel. A 21-gun salute may also be fired at the interment site following the benediction.

Military clergy --a military chaplain from one of the services assigned to the immediate family.

Flag-draped casket --all veterans are entitled to have the flag draped on their casket. The president, as commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces, is also entitled to this honor.

Caisson --The Old Guard Caisson Platoon of the Military District of Washington's 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment will transport the remains during the Washington, D.C., phase of the funeral. The caisson consists of six horses of the same color, three riders, and a section chief mounted on a separate horse. The caisson itself is a converted transport wagon for a 75mm cannon.

Caparisoned horse --a riderless horse following the caisson. A pair of boots are reversed in the stirrups of the empty saddle to symbolize that the warrior will never ride again.

Military Band --a military band will play appropriate music in honor of the former president during each phase of the funeral. Some traditional selections include:

1) Ruffles and Flourishes -- Ruffles are played on drums and flourishes on bugles. They are sounded together, once for each star of the general officer being honored or according to the title or office held. Four Ruffles and Flourishes are the highest honor and played for presidents.

2) Hail to the Chief -- The traditional musical salute to the president of the United States.

3) Taps -- A bugle call sounded over the grave of a service member dating from the time of the Civil War.

Firing three volleys over the grave --this practice has its origin in the old custom of halting the fighting to remove the dead from the battlefield. Once the dead were removed three rifle volleys were fired as a signal that the battle could resume. The volleys are traditionally fired by a firing party of seven service members. The fact that the firing party consists of seven service members firing three volleys does not constitute a 21-gun salute.

National Flag at half staff --the flag will be flown at half staff for 30 days from the date of death.

Burial in Arlington National Cemetery --burial in ANC is restricted. The president, as the commander-in-chief is entitled to this honor.

Information provided by Military District of Washington