Arlington National Cemetery released new rules for funeral escorts for 2019, a change proposed by the ANC's advisory committee to address lengthy wait times for burials.
The new rules allow officers at O-4 or higher, warrant officers in the two highest warrant grades (CW4 and CW5), and E-9 enlisted members to receive full honors with an escort. Servicemembers who are killed in action or who have received the Medal of Honor, regardless of rank, are also eligible.
The change went into effect in mid-January after several months of careful consideration and input from the service chiefs, service secretaries, and the secretary of defense. Previously, any servicemember who attained the rank of E-9 and above could request this benefit.
According to the commission, the concept behind this change was to “align the most resource intensive level of honors with those who demonstrated a higher level of commitment to service and sacrifice.”
Delivering honors with an escort involves more than 70 personnel, including a casket team, firing party, bugler, flag handlers, escort element (which varies by rank), and a military band. The logistical challenges limit ANC to carrying out eight such services per day.
Servicemembers who are ineligible for an escort (officers O-1 to O-3, warrant officers WO1 to CW-3, and enlisted members below E-9) still can request military honors, which include a casket team, firing party, bugler, and flag handlers. This service requires 17 personnel and is performed up to 22 times per day, Monday to Friday, at Arlington.
For more information on Arlington funeral honors, the cemetery has released this fact sheet.
While officials at the cemetery predict this change eventually will alleviate some of the wait times, the increasing demand for burial in recent months still presents a challenge. Last month, ANC received over 55 burial requests in a single day. The total for February was more than 700.
While ANC holds status as a historic part of our national heritage, burial at any of the other national cemeteries around the U.S. is no less distinguished, and is available to every eligible veteran. According to Public Law 106-65, honors consist of two or more uniformed military persons presenting the U.S. burial flag along with the playing of Taps. To learn more about military funeral honors, visit this website.