All about the Flag on the Casket

DrillMaster Honor Guard, Honor Guard Training, Instructional 10 Comments


Casket: a rectangular-shaped box in which the dead are buried.

air-force-casket-full Vet caskets dot comImage courtesy of

Coffin: a six-sided box for the same purpose. The ends taper inward toward the head and feet. Not widely used in America, used extensively in Europe.

basic-coffin murrayfuneralservicesdotCOdotUKImage courtesy of

Interment: the burial of a corpse in a grave or tomb, typically with funeral rites.

Internment: the imprisonment or confinement of people, commonly in large groups, without trial.

What is an Interment Flag?

This is what the American flag is called that is draped over a casket. It is a cotton flag that is 5 feet by 9 1/2 feet with embroidered stars. There are certain companies that make these flags and each company has slight variations to their flags. If you speak with someone who has been a pall bearer fora while he/she just might be able to tell you about these slight variations and where the first fold into the canton lands, etc. Click here for great info on specifications.

Can a flag be used for a first responder/military member who has committed suicide?

Yes, of course. Nothing prevents this at all.

Is a flag authorized for first responder/military retirees or veterans?

Absolutely! Retirees/veterans obtain their flags from the VA and first responders flags are provided through their department.

Is a flag be authorized for deceased canines?

Yes. Canine’s serve their country in law enforcement and other capacities and are considered a member of the military or law enforcement agency.

Are two or more flags authorized to be folded and presented to the next of kin?

Yes. While one flag is provided by the military service/public service agency others can be purchased for the family by the family, department, etc. It is standard that the flag that is draped over the casket is folded and presented and that all other flags are pre-folded and presented after the first flag.

Can an interment flag be flown?

Yes, of course. There is nothing wrong with that.

What is a casket band?

A large elastic band that goes around the casket to hold the flag in place during transport on a caisson it is not needed at any other time. Click here for a very good product. Picture courtesy (this flag is not dressed- properly folded at the ends- and the band is too high; it should be centered vertically.

How is the flag displayed on a fully open casket?

The properly folded flag is placed in the casket at the deceased’s left shoulder.

What about displaying the flag on a half-open casket?

The upper half of the flag (the
half with the canton) is arranged in three layers of even folds and the bottom half of the flag covers the closed half of the casket. Align the three folds with the edge of the closed half of the casket with the blue field as the top layers. Fold the header (white band) under the flag to display only the blue field and stripes.Open Casket Flag It is best to set up the casket with the flag in this manner before the ceremony. During the ceremony the casket can be closed and two pall bearers can then arrange the flag so that it then covers the whole casket. The picture of the open casket (top) shows the flag incorrectly displayed (the white band is showing).

How is the flag displayed with cremated remains in an urn?

A properly folded flag is displayed and carried on the right of the urn.

Can state flags be used to cover a casket?

Yes. Some first responders who serve their state desire to have their state’s flag, which is just fine. The flag should be displayed so that it faces the same direction as if it were the American flag.

How is a casket transported through narrow areas like a chapel aisle?

By two pall bearers: one at the foot of the casket, which actually leads when transported, and one at the head of the casket (where the canton is- the head of the deceased). Both pallbearers keep their hands on the casket the whole time. Picture courtesy

How does the casket travel?

Feet-first at all times except in two instances:

  1. When the deceased is a chaplain and he is going in/out of the chapel
  2. When there is an impediment in the way of the casket traveling to the graveside all the way feet-first

Some Resources

International Association of Fire Fighters Funeral Protocol for Line-of-Duty Deaths.

National Volunteer Fire Council Funeral Procedures for Firefighters: A Resource Manual.

Comments 10

  1. My Grandfather was a Paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne. He passed away on 7/28/15. My question is, My family and I are wondering if it is against protocol to place his photo on top of the flag covered casket ?

    1. Post

      Hi Jason,

      Thank you for your question. My condolences for your loss.

      Placing anything on or in the flag is against the Flag Code.

      I’m my experience families have set up small tables next to the casket and placed the picture on it along with ribbons and/or medals and other uniform accouterments.

  2. Really, over a canine? Don’t get me wrong, I love dogs, have had one almost all my life and appreciate and respect the job they do for the military and law enforcement. I believe that to place one over an animal of any kind is disrespectful to PEOPLE. The message you send by placing an American flag over an animal is that the service members life is equivalent to that of a dog/animal. What rule, regulation, law or decree from U.S. Code covering Honors for the U.S. Flag are you citing with this?
    Best Regards,

    1. Post

      Hello Sir,

      I understand what you are saying, but military and police K9s are enlisted members of their service and even earn rank. Their services and handlers consider them just as much a partner as a human.

    1. Post

      Ms. McKeeman,

      No, the flag never shares space. Here is what happens. For a Roman Catholic service, a white cloth, called a pall, is placed on the casket when it enters the church. In the vestibule, the pallbearers place the casket on the church truck (bier), remove the interment flag and place the pall on the casket. The casket is then wheeled into place, the service takes commences and when the service is finished a reverse of the previous procedures takes place: the casket is wheeled to the vestibule, the pall is removed and the casket flag is replaced. The pallbearers then lift the casket off of the bier and transport it to the hearse.

      PS: the interment flag can be folded lengthwise into thirds and then in half once or twice and draped over the back of a chair or placed on a table out of view of the congregation where the honor guard pallbearers have immediate access to it.

      I hope this answers your question.

    1. Post

      Thank you for this great question!

      Two flags on a casket or coffin would not be appropriate. A solution to this is to have one flag draped over the casket and then both flags mounted on staffs, placed in stands, and put behind the casket and, when the time comes, carried by the color guard.

      Side note: National colors do not dip for any reason.

  3. A bit of confusion here –
    Under the section – What about displaying the flag on a half-open casket?
    The last sentence says, “The picture of the open casket (top) shows the flag incorrectly displayed.” Yet the picture appears to be correct per the description…..??

    1. Post

      Mr. Wade,

      Actually, while I’ve made all kinds of changes throughout the website, the top picture is correct because the white band is showing. I updated the text.

      Once again, thanks!

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