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By Peter Gaytan
Veterans are entitled to have their caskets draped with the United States flag. To apply for a flag, your family will complete VA Form 21-2008, Application for United States Flag for Burial Purposes. Your survivors may obtain a flag at any VA regional office or the U.S. Post Office. Generally, the funeral home director will help your family get a flag.
Directions for how to display and fold the flag are included in Form 21-2008. These flags are not appropriate for outside use except on a very limited basis. They are made of cotton and can easily be damaged by the weather.
After interment services, the flag will be folded and presented to veteran’s next of kin.
Who Is Considered Next Of Kin?
- Sons or daughters in the order of seniority
- Oldest parent unless legal custody was granted to another person
- Blood or adoptive relative granted legal custody
- Brothers or sisters in order of seniority
- Oldest grandparent
- Other relative in accordance with the laws in the deceased’s state of residence.
Even when parents are not the primary next of kin, they may also receive a flag and flag case.
Certain VA cemeteries have an Avenue of Flags. Families of veterans buried in those cemeteries may donate the burial flags to be flown on patriotic holidays.
The veteran’s next of kin will, upon request, receive a Presidential Memorial Certificate (PMC). It bears the current President’s signature. Additional copies may also be requested for other family members.
Applications for a PMC must be made in person at any VA regional office or by U.S. mail addressed to: Presidential Memorial Certificates (41A1C)
Department of Veterans Affairs
5109 Russell Road
Quantico, VA 22134-3903
Military Honors at Funerals
The Department of Defense, not the VA, is responsible for providing military funeral honors under a program entitled, Honoring Those Who Served. The honors include folding and presenting the United States burial flag and playing Taps. At least two or more uniformed military persons will be members of the funeral honors detail, one of whom will be from the veteran’s service of the armed forces. The funeral home director can request military honors. If the veteran is being buried in a VA national cemetery, then the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) National Cemetery Administration staff will coordinate the military honors. Again, make clear your wishes about military honors in your pre-burial planning list.
Peter S. Gaytan is the author of For Service to Your Country, The Insider’s Guide to Veterans’ Benefits (Citadel, 2008), available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other booksellers. He has served as an advocate in securing and protecting the earned benefits of America’s veterans for more than a decade. Gaytan is the Executive Director of the American Legion, the largest veterans service organization in America.
*Material released with permission of the authors.