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How the American Flag Is Used in Funerals

During any given year, over 2 million funerals will take place in the United States. Funeral ceremonies often have different traditions. Many of them, however, involve the use of the American flag. If you’ve attended a funeral in the past, you may recall seeing the American flag. For well over a century, the American flag has been used in funerals.

Veterans

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will provide an American flag at the funerals of all veterans. According to the VA, it’s designed to honor the veteran’s military service. With the exception of those who were dishonorably discharged, all veterans are eligible for a free American flag. The next of kin of a veteran can request an American flag from the VA by completing the form located here.

The American flag provided by the VA can be draped over the veteran’s casket or accompanied with an urn during the funeral. For caskets, the American flag is folded immediately before the casket is lowered. The American flag is then handed to the veteran’s next of kin. In most cases, the American flag isn’t buried with the casket; it’s given to a family member or other next of kin.

These VA-donated American flags are known as burial flags. The next of kin to veterans are allowed to keep burial flags after the funeral. Alternatively, they can donate them to a national cemetary. All of the VA’s national cemeteries display bural flags during holidays and special events.

Civil Servants

In addition to veterans’ funerals, the funerals of civil servants may feature the American flag as well. Civil servants include police officers, firefighters and even paramedics.  During their funerals, an American flag may be draped over their coffins or accompanied with an urn in a similar way as that of veterans’ funerals.

The VA, of course, doesn’t provide an American flag for civil servants; it only provides them for veterans. Nonetheless, many civil servants are patriotic, and some of them ask their family members or next of kin to display the American flag at their funerals.

The U.S. flag code doesn’t mention the use of the American flag in funerals. It covers various topics regarding how to display, fold and even retire the American flag, but it doesn’t say how to use the American flag in funerals. With that said, it’s customary for the American flag to be used in funerals. The funerals and veterans and civil servants will often feature the American flag.

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