Conducting Military Veteran Funeral

Purpose of the guideline

To set a standard for conducting Military Veteran Funerals.

Who is affected by this guideline?

CMVO and Member organisations.

Guideline statements


  1. An integral part of the responsibilities of veterans’ organisations is to conduct a funeral in a sensitive but militarily correct way. These services should support and comfort the relatives and friends of those who have passed away whilst taking military customs and practices into consideration.
  1. It is recognised that the wishes of the family should always be taken into account when veterans’ organisations are asked to organise funerals. The family should however be guided on what is militarily correct.
  1. It is also recognised that certain member organisations such as the Memorable Order of the Tin Hats have prescribed procedures for military funerals. It is also recognised that the customs will differ between religious denominations.
  1. The aim of this guideline is to provide guidance on the procedures to be followed before, during and after veteran funerals (or where appropriate, a memorial service for the deceased), under the following headings:
  1. Communication with the family.
  2. Notification of the funeral.
  3. Dress regulations for veterans’ funerals.
  4. Procedures at the service.
  5. Procedures at the graveside.
  6. Wreaths.
  7. Follow up.



  1. In order to streamline the memorial -/funeral service, the following guiding principles should at all times be adhered to, as far as possible:
  1. The military/veterans may not combine family or political programmes within the military/veterans’ part of the memorial / funeral service.
  1. There should at all times be a clear handover between the family/political parts of the event and the military/veterans’ responsibilities.
  1. The number of speeches at memorial and funeral services to be limited to three, unless he family prefer more.
  1. Military/veterans’ protocol should be followed with regard to speeches by the military and the veterans and therefore only the highest ranking military person present should speak on behalf of the military, and the most senior military veteran on behalf of the veterans, if at all.
  1. No political speeches should be allowed at a military memorial or full military funeral service. In the case of a semi-military funeral, where the family determines the procedure at the church service and the military the graveside/cemetery part of the event, the family retains the prerogative to identify speakers of their choice.
  1. Further details, if required, can be obtained from the Ceremonial Guidelines of the SANDF (Reference A).


  1. Veteran funerals may either be requested by the family or offered to the family. In such cases, the families should be offered as much support as possible.
  1. The family should be advised on the procedure to be followed and be made aware of the fact that the coffin may be draped with the organisations flag and the deceased’s medals may be placed on the coffin.
  1. The degree of involvement of the veterans’ organisation vis-a-vis the family should be sensitively but fully discussed. This includes whether the pallbearers will be veterans or family members or a combination of both.
  1. A person from the applicable veterans’ organisation should be appointed to liaise, communicate and, if necessary, to negotiate with and assist the family with the arrangements.


  1. Where the deceased is to be awarded a veterans’ funeral, the members of the organisations and where appropriate other organisations should be informed. The notification should provide:
  1. The time of the funeral and when guests should be seated.
  2. Location of the funeral (with GPS co-ordinates,  if possible).
  3. Dress code (especially with regard to wearing medals and arm bands – see below).
  4. The arrangements for wreaths/flowers.
  5. Whether or not the funeral will be followed by a ceremony at a cemetery.
  6. Any events after the funeral (e.g. tea or a wake).


  1. Each veterans’ organisation may have its own dress regulations for funerals.
  1. Notifications of funerals should stipulate the dress code.
  1. In the absence of any modifications flowing from 12 and 13 above, the dress to be worn by military veterans at funerals is as follows:
  1. SANMVA uniform, if available and appropriate, with medals and mourning band
  2. Association jacket and tie (or business suit for males).
  3. Association headdress outside the church (where applicable).
  4. Pall bearers are to wear a mourning band, 90mm wide, around the left arm, midway between the shoulder and elbow.
  5. Medals on the left chest.
  6. Non-military medals and those of parents may be worn on the right chest.
  7. Own association pennants/metal badges on the left lapel.
  8. Pennants/metal badges of the CMVO and other veterans’ organisations on the right lapel.
  9. Poppy’s should be worn on the right lapel in November each year.


  1. The following sequence of events at a veteran’s funeral/memorial  service is given as a guideline:
  1. Votum
  2. Hymn
  3. Prayer
  4. Tribute by a family member
  5. Tribute by a friend
  6. Tribute by a fellow veteran
  7. Hymn
  8. Scripture reading
  9. Sermon
  10. Hymn
  11. Closing prayer
  12. Reading of the obituary
  13. Announcing the names of pallbearers
  14. Moving to hearse/carrier
  1. If there is to be no procedure at a graveside
  1. Final religious sending off by the chaplain/minister
  2. Family members and friends to place flowers on the coffin
  3. Saluting of the coffin by veterans, from the foot of the grave.
  1. Semi-military/veterans service  (This is where the family would like to combine both their own religious/political service with the military/veterans service, in which case there must be a clear handover between the two parts of the event):
    1. After the church service and family/political programme was conducted by the family and their reverent or priest, the program director will call on the officiating military/veteran chaplain to come forward.
  1. The officiating military/veteran chaplain will then act as program director and chaplain for the rest of the military/veterans proceedings, as follows:
  1. Introduction by Chaplain.
  2. Tribute by most senior military member and/or military veteran.
  3. Benediction or Closing Prayer.
  4. Reading of the Obituary (Only if not already read during family programme).
  5. Announcement of the military bearers.
  6. Moving to the hearse/carrier.
  1. If it is a cremation service, read the Committal words at the hearse and allow members to pay last respects (petals/flowers/leaves) on coffin.
  1. Saluting of coffin by military/veterans as the hearse departs.
  1. Other guidelines for the funeral are:
  1. An usher should be appointed to ensure that the family, veterans, pall bearers and friends are appropriately seated.
  1. The association flag should be placed on the coffin before it enters the church.
  1. There should be no political speeches.
  1. If there is to be no procedure at the graveside, the organisation’s flag and the deceased’s medals should be removed from the coffin before it is placed in the hearse after the service.
  1. The procedure should be fully discussed with and agreed to by officiating chaplain/minister.
  1. The procedure for the pall bearers is contained in appendix A.


  1. The following sequence of events is given as a guideline:
  1. Removal of the organisation’s flag from the coffin
  2. Prayer
  3. Scripture reading or a few words of comfort.  .
  4. Committal Formula.
  5. Closing prayer.
  6. Veterans should pass the coffin in procession and pay their compliments to the deceased from the foot of the grave before departing.
  7. Hand over to family for family/cultural rituals (if any).

Remarks. If the family wishes to do the religious part at the cemetery, the chaplain hands over proceedings to the family minister/program director after the organisation’s flag has been handed over to the family and the bearers and pall-bearers have saluted the coffin and have been dismissed.


  1. Wreaths, where appropriate, should be delivered to the church ahead of the funeral.
  1. With the consent of the family, one wreath from the veteran’s organisation concerned may accompany the coffin in the hearse.


  1. Subsequent to the funeral, contact should be maintained with the family to ensure their welfare.
  1. The families should be given advice by the veterans organisation concerned on the benefits possibly available to them.











Form Name


Reference A

Ceremonial Guidelines Handbook of the SANDF

Appendix A

Procedures by Pallbearers



Owner of the guideline


CMVO National



Position incumbent


Version Control



Description of update

Author / Reviewer



First draft

M Cornelissen