Oct 11 2011
Update on Email Rumor
Last week, we brought you the viral email regarding a change in the language when a survivor is presented the flag at a military funeral. The rumor stated that the White House had changed the protocol to remove the words ‘On behalf of the President of the United States’.
At the time of that posting, we brought the issue up with DVA’s National Cemetery Program for review. The VA was initially unaware of this specific issue, they discussed it and responded.
Response from the Department of Veterans Affairs
The following was related to MOAA from James Flanagan, Program Manager for Presidential Memorial Certificates at the National Cemetery Administration (please note that the NCA is not responsible for regulations of the recitation – that comes from the Department of Defense):
“[Y]our inquiry also questioned the burial ceremony recitation by the different branches of the military in presenting a burial flag to the family or loved one of a deceased veteran, with some research and considerable discussion the National Cemetery Administration is now sharing these (your) concerns across our system and staff. We feel that the guidance below is appropriate to the needs outlined in your inquiry and we hope that this response will assist you in addressing the questions from your membership accordingly.
While military funeral honors often are presented at National Cemeteries, the Department of Defense (DOD) is responsible for providing military funeral honors. Each individual branch of the Armed Forces may establish its own protocol, typically issued in the service’s policy manual. This includes guidance on the statement to be recited when presenting a burial flag to the next of kin. When a VA national cemetery representative presents the burial flag to the next of kin in lieu of a member of a military honor guard, they use these words: “This flag is presented on behalf of a grateful Nation, as a token of appreciation for the honorable and faithful service rendered by your loved one.”
While there may be some variations at the unit level in reciting the appropriate verbiage, neither the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense, nor any branch of the military have published or directed any recent change to the recitation for presenting a burial flag to the loved one of a deceased veteran.
The military funeral honors website is located at www.militaryfuneralhonors.osd.mil.
Questions or comments concerning the DOD military funeral honors program may be sent to the address listed below:
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense For Public Affairs
Community Relations and Public Liaison
1400 Defense Pentagon, Room 2D982
Washington, DC 20301-1400
(emphasis added by author)
Additionally, Mr. Flanagan gave information regarding the Presidential Memorial Certificate Program (PMC):
“[E]very Presidential Memorial Certificate that is mailed to a family member or loved one of a deceased veteran contains the signature of the President of the United States. The PMC program continues to be a White House program that is exclusively administered by the Department of Veterans affairs. It is truly unfortunate that a message is circulating in any form or in any medium that suggests otherwise.
If you would like to read more about the Presidential Memorial Certificates I would always encourage you or any of your membership to visit our web site at http://www.cem.va.gov/pmc.asp
MOAA appreciates the efforts of Mr. Flanagan to help us raise awareness on this issue and hopefully put the rumor to bed.
There are some circumstances in which the protocol would call for the service member that is presenting the flag not to use the phrase ‘on behalf of the President of the United States’. This is determined by who it is doing the presenting. Commissioned officers are the only members of the military that are authorized to speak on the CinC’s behalf, so if it is an enlisted personnel taking part in the ceremony, protocol calls for the phrasing to be ‘on behalf of a grateful nation’. This clarification was issued in 2007.