Requesting an Honor Guard for a Veteran's Funeral Service

A final salute
This past weekend was a tough one for our family as we honored our father, grandfather, brother, uncle, cousin and friend during a memorial service. James M. Kissinger was a World War 2 veteran who served honorably with the 685th Engineer Base Equipment Company in the European Theater of Operations as his discharge papers comment.

We wanted his Army service, which he was so proud of to be recognized during the time of the memorial service. As a fellow veteran and his eldest son it fell to me to follow up on the family’s request and desire to make this happen. I found out that it was not that hard to do. In order to help other veteran families I would like to share my experience.

First, the funeral home handling the services will be your first contact and be sure to tell them that your loved one was a veteran. In our case, they had a form for us to fill out but it appeared to only cover the state we were in where dad had died.  Since we had planned a service in another state, I called to find out if I needed something different. The toll free line is 800 557 7408 and they will tell you which military installation is the one that will handle your request and provide a phone and fax number for you or the funeral home to coordinate with and determine details. You can find information at the Veteran Affairs website as well.

Next, you will need the veteran’s discharge papers or DD 214. The installation that you or the funeral home call will ask for them to be faxed to them and I had the funeral home do that for us as we were in a different state and did not have a fax available. Another option would have been to use the hotel office fax machine. Be sure to request that the funeral home director ask for a veteran flag for presentation from the local post office. Remember the first step was to identify that your loved one was a veteran and most funeral homes will do this automatically. A kind reminder sometimes will prevent any delays.

When I spoke to the installation office at Ft Knox (which had responsibility for our region), I told them the date, time and location of the memorial service as it included some travel time for us to return to dad’s hometown and home church. Due to the winter weather, the family decided to do the ceremony in our church instead of at the gravesite. The coordination person was so helpful and I requested a bugler (which they can not do all the time) and flag presentation for my mom.

She told me that the Indiana Army National Guard company from Gary would be supporting the memorial service and they did a fantastic job. One final detail the coordination officer needed to know, was the time of the service and if the flag presentation was at the beginning or end. We requested it for the end of the service and I briefly left the service during a family picture montage to talk with the soldiers who arrived. They quickly walked us through the protocols and I identified my mom for whom they would be presenting the flag. It went so smoothly and so enhanced the service that I would recommend it for all veteran families. These times are hard but taking the time to add the flag presentation to any service is so worth it!

One last comment, about travel for a veteran’s funeral: Did you know most hotels’ offer a bereavement rate? In our case we saved a lot of funds for the whole family by requesting it in two states and two different chains: Holiday Inn and Hilton Garden Inns offered a special bereavement rate for family members.
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