Veterans of the U.S. armed forces are ready to give their life for their country. When veterans die, whether in the line of duty or long after their military service, they deserve all respect from the nation. The last tribute in their honor is paid at the funeral. During military funeral honors, a U.S. flag is displayed on the casket or the urn and afterward given to a veteran's loved one - a gift presented on behalf of the Armed Forces and the President of the United States for the honor earned and sacrifice made by the service member.
When a veteran dies, family members may ask "Who gets the flag?" Can a veteran's family receive more than one burial flag?
In this post, we provide answers to these questions and others.
HOW DO I APPLY FOR A MILITARY BURIAL FLAG?
Those having charge of funeral arrangements for the service member such as a funeral director or veterans' organizations are able to issue flags upon receiving and processing a completed VA Form 27-2008. You may get a flag at any VA regional office or U.S. Post Office. When interment is in a national, state or military post cemetery, a military burial flag will be provided.
For a full list of all armed forces service members who are eligible for a burial flag and the documentation required to obtain one, consult the Department of Veteran Affairs. They can be found online at www.vba.va.gov and contacted by phone at 1-800-827-1000.
WHO GETS THE BURIAL FLAG AFTER A VETERAN’S DEATH?
A U.S. flag is issued on behalf of the Department of Veterans Affairs to honor the memory of a veteran. By law, the burial flag is to be given to the next-of-kin at the conclusion of a military funeral service.
According to the VA, a flag may not be issued after burial unless it was impossible to obtain a flag in time to drape the casket or accompany the urn before burial. If a flag is requested after the veteran's burial, the requester must explain in the "remarks" section of the application the reason that prevented a timely request for the flag.
WHO IS THE NEXT-OF-KIN?
The next-of-kin is the person most closely related to the deceased veteran. Normally there is no question about who is going to be presented the burial flag since active duty members name their next-of-kin before completing their service. They fill out the VA Form 27-2008 and only one person can be listed on it. Therefore, there is usually no argument about eligibility of a family member to receive the funeral flag.
In rare cases when the designated recipient dies before the military funeral, the loved one next in line (see the list below) receives the flag.
WHAT IF THERE IS NO NEXT-OF-KIN?
In cases when the next-of-kin was not officially named before the veteran’s death, there is a clear hierarchy about who has eligibility to receive the flag. The next of kin succession is as follows:
- the spouse
- children in order of age with oldest being first
- the eldest parent or guardian, including adoptive, stepparents and foster parents
- brothers or sisters, including those of half-blood
- an uncle or aunt
- nephews or nieces
- others such as cousins or grandparents
When there is no next of kin, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will provide a flag to a close friend making a request for it, as long as it is in accordance with the late veteran’s domicile certificate.
Only one flag may be issued for each deceased veteran.
WHAT HAPPENS WITH THE FLAG AFTERWARDS?
There are several options regarding what can be done with burial flags. Most commonly, the family of the deceased veteran opts for an indoor display of the flag to commemorate their beloved family member.
If a veteran is buried in one of the VA national cemeteries with an Avenue of Flags, it is possible to donate the funeral flag to be flown on patriotic holidays such as Memorial Day.
However, once the family member is presented the flag, they have the ability to decide how to use it within the legal parameters. The two options mentioned above are the most common. Yet, the person who gets the flag has the option to give it away or leave it to someone in their will.
The flag cannot be replaced if it is lost, destroyed or stolen.
The legal parameters of handling the flag include the following:
· The flag should never be fastened, displayed, used or stowed in such a manner as will permit it to be easily torn, soiled or damaged in any way.
· The flag should never have placed upon it, nor any part of it, nor attached to it, any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure design, picture or drawing of any nature.
· The flag should never be used as a receptacle for receiving, holding, carrying or delivering anything.
· The flag when badly worn, torn or soiled should no longer be publicly displayed but privately destroyed by burning in such a manner as to convey no suggestion of disrespect or irreverence.