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What Is The Proper Placement For The U.s. Flag On A Veterans Grave

By Amy Cates

Military funerals are revered for their attention to ceremony, with each step carefully planned in order to honor the veteran according to military protocol. A major component of the military funeral is the presence and role of the U.S. flag.

Veterans who served in any of the United States armed forces are eligible to receive a burial flag from the U.S. Veterans Administration. To receive a burial flag, the veteran's family or family friend must complete VA Form 21-2008 and submit it either to the funeral director or other organization overseeing the memorial service. Flags are available at regional offices of the Veterans Administration or any U.S. Post Office. Flags are provided at burials held at national, state or military post cemeteries.
Throughout the ceremony, the official U.S. burial flag may be displayed on the casket, but it should not be displayed outside or on the grave because it is made of cotton, making it vulnerable to weather damage.

A burial flag may be displayed on either a closed or open casket. On a closed casket, the flag should be displayed with the blue field (or union) at the head and lying over the deceased veteran's left shoulder. With an open casket that is open only at the head (known as "half couch"), the flag should be folded in three layers, covering the closed part of the casket. The union, or blue field, is seen on the top fold, face up near the open part of the casket and on the deceased veteran's left.
On a fully open casket, or "full couch," the flag should be folded according to military guidelines, and set in the middle of the casket cap, immediately over the veteran's left shoulder.

During the burial ceremony, the pallbearers hold the flag over the grave, then fold it according to military guidelines following the playing of Taps. The burial flag is never to touch the ground or to be lowered into the grave. It is taken from the casket and folded according to custom and presented to the family.


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