It doesn’t matter if a person was a line cook in the Army, a colonel in the Air Force or medic in the Marines. Any military service member who was honorably discharged is eligible for a military funeral service.
Archie Willis sometimes encounters families who didn’t realize a loved one served in the military all those years ago or maybe the person downplayed their role. His job at McAlister-Smith Funeral & Cremation is to honor that person’s service.
“Being a veteran is a wonderful gift that person shared with all of us,” says Willis, co-owner and president. “It’s our job to let them know that service was important. Whether they were in a combat unit, a truck driver or a cook, they supported the whole effort.”
A veteran or military service member is eligible for a military funeral. A standard honor military funeral includes:
- A military chaplain for family members
- Flag presentation service
- A final salute at the gravesite
A full honor military funeral includes those standard honors in addition to:
- A 21-gun salute (depending on their rank)
- The U.S. flag draped over the casket and given to the next of kin following the service
- The playing of taps either by a lone bugler or an audio recording
Willis says they have the relationships with the appropriate military departments or can call on organizations such as the American Legion that works with the Department of Defense to provide some of those services at military funerals.
Family members may not know whom to contact, so it’s easiest to let the funeral home make those arrangements and coordinate all the details, Willis explains.
Many people may not realize anyone who served in the military and was honorably discharged is also eligible for burial space in a national cemetery, including a government marker. The national cemeteries closest to Charleston are in Beaufort and at Fort Jackson.
Even if the individual or loved ones chooses a private cemetery, the military service member still can receive a government marker and have it placed in the private cemetery. The military spouse also may be laid to rest at national cemetery – even if he or she passes away first. And the name of the military spouse will be placed on the government marker.
The main documentation veterans need if they are pre-planning their own funeral or the family will need to provide are the discharge papers, known as the DD Form 214, Willis says.
“Most have their service number memorized, but their family members maybe haven’t seen that document,” he says.
That documentation is also needed to access other possible military benefits. Some veterans may have been offered insurance policies, for example, if they signed up for another tour of duty.
McAlister-Smith has compiled a list of resources and phone numbers for the appropriate Department of Defense offices so family members can claim any added benefits.
“If you have access to that discharge document, it has the whole history – what they did, what battles they may have been in. It tells a story,” Willis says. “And once you know that, you can't help but get emotional when they are laid to rest. Some of them were warriors and some were in support roles. Moving that flag-draped casket – that becomes the heart of the country. They've made that effort to keep us safe and we need to acknowledge it.”
McAlister-Smith Funeral & Cremation has been a trusted name in the Lowcountry for funeral and cremation services for more than 130 years. With a long history of personalized services and a commitment to families, including military families, the team at McAlister-Smith honors tradition while embracing the industry changes.
Stop by one of their four convenient locations in Mount Pleasant, West Ashley, James Island and Goose Creek to see what a modern funeral home can provide.
For more information about veterans’ services and resources, visit McAlister-Smith.com or call (843) 722-8371.
Connect with McAlister Smith on social media by selecting one of the icons below.