The History Behind Military Funeral Honors

Did you know what we now call “Veterans Day” was once called “Armistice Day?” That day originated on November 11, 1919, and was actually the anniversary of the end of World War I. In 1926, Congress made it an annual observance. But it wasn’t until 1954 that President Eisenhower changed the name of the holiday to Veteran’s Day.

Its purpose is to pay respect and express gratitude to all veterans especially those who are still with us. St. Pierre Family Funeral & Cremation Services has a long history of honoring veterans. Our dedication to servicemen and women is very personal.

When it comes time to lay a veteran to rest, we work hard to make sure their family knows about all of the honor and benefits they deserve. Military funeral honors not only recognize the contributions of our heroes but also provide a sense of closure for the family. If you have the honor of attending a military funeral, you may find it takes on a new sense of meaning when you understand the history behind the honors bestowed.


It’s hard to not become emotional when you hear this song played. Its root can be traced back to the Civil War, when “Lights Out” was played on a bugle at the end of the day. In July of 1862, Union General Daniel Adams Butterfield called the bugler to his tent. They were coming off the bloody Seven Days Battle and had lost 600 men. Explaining that “Lights Out” seemed too formal to capture the gravity of the moment, he scratched some notes on the back of an envelope and handed it to the bugler. What we know as “Taps” was born that night, and was quickly picked up throughout the Army. It began to be played at military funerals in 1891, and it is still played today. What a beautiful and meaningful connection to the past.

Three-gun Volley

If you attend a military funeral at St. Pierre, chances are, this is an honor you will experience. It is often confused with the 21-gun salute, which is the nation’s highest funeral honor. Three volleys are fired each by seven service members. It evolved from an old battlefield custom where two warring sides would cease fire so they could tend to their dead. When it was completed, three volleys would be fired, and the battle would resume.

Flag Presentation and Folding

This ceremony is highly symbolic. A U.S. flag is draped over the closed casket, and after Taps is played, the flag is folded into the shape of a triangle. If done correctly, the flag will fold 13 times on the triangles, representing the original 13 colonies. It is then presented to the family as a keepsake. In 2012, the Department of Defense standardized the verbiage for all flag presentations:

“On behalf of the President of the United States, (the appropriate branch of service), and a grateful Nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one’s honorable and faithful service.”

These are just a few of the military honors and benefits that the veterans of Indianapolis, Greenwood, and Pendleton may receive at St Pierre. We also arrange a Patriot’s Walk, where we line the path of our cemetery with American flags to respect the patriot’s final journey.

It’s important to remember we should honor our veterans not just in death, and not just this week, but all the time, and certainly while they are still with us. Share this blog post on social media and let others know you support our nation’s veterans.

Have you loved or lost a U.S. veteran? Tell us their story in the comments below.