Planning or attending a military funeral: what you need to know

June 24, 2014

Whether you're planning a military funeral or attending one for a friend, there are certain things you should know about how they differ from civilian ceremonies.

Planning or attending a military funeral: what you need to know

The military has a well-known and rigid structure. However, several concessions are possible when it comes to planning a funeral for a fallen soldier. With preservation of the memory of the soldier in mind, military officials do everything possible to show respect to both the family and the deceased.

The military will not force any traditional customs of a military funeral on the family. The family of the deceased is allowed to choose how much, if any, involvement the military will have in the planning process, the ceremony and the burial. In most cases, the family of the deceased soldier will allow quite a bit of military involvement because of the close ties soldiers develop with their units and fellow soldiers.

When the armed forces plan the funeral for the family, they provide a military chaplain to conduct the ceremony, or play an advisory role to the person chosen by the family. The purpose of the military chaplain is to ensure the deceased is given the proper honours, such as draping the flag over the casket, properly folding the flag afterwards and the correct procedure for presenting medals on a cushion to be placed on the casket. Unlike the U.S. tradition of a 21-gun salute, guns are usually not fired at Canadian military services.

As the body is interred, the song "Last Post" is played on a bugle.

Who pays for a military funeral?

The Canadian military strives to "do whatever needs to be done" to cover the costs of the funeral for a soldier killed while on duty. Military officials claim that the support they provide is unconditional and that they do what has to be done to properly lay the fallen solider to rest. However, much of the costs have to be covered by the family.

Generally, families are expected to pay the funeral costs upfront, and then file a claim for reimbursement. This doesn't always work out. Many families report being shortchanged. Military officials say they can't confirm these reports, but if the claims are true, corrective action will be taken.

Current regulations state that the military will pay about $4,700 for the funeral costs of a soldier who is killed in action. This does not include the headstone or the plot. However, the average cost of a funeral is about twice that amount. Military officials are working on raising the burial stipend to relieve the families of the additional burden.

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