I received a message a short time ago regarding cadets taking part in the funeral of a civilian adult who was a member of Civil Air Patrol. This applies not only to CAP but also NSCC, and CGA (CGA has some interaction with the Sea Scout program).
Military Funeral Honors
Military Funeral Honors (MFH) consists of two or more Active Duty, Reserve, and/or National Guard members of the US military (Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, and/or Coast Guard) performing any or all of the following ceremonial elements at a memorial or funeral for a veteran of the US military: pallbearers; flag fold and presentation; colors guard; firing party volleys; and sounding Taps.
The only time the Military can participate formally in a civilian funeral service, is if the decedent was an elected official. There is some ambiguity as to whether local government leaders such as Mayors, City or County/Parish Councilmembers, or County Commissioners should be included, but Governors, members of the State Legislature, State Supreme Court members, members of US House and Senate, Supreme Court Justices, and current and former Presidents and Vice Presidents are authorized MFH. Also included in this list is Ambassadors, and the Secretary of State. But it is unclear as to whether other members of the Cabinet are entitled to this honor. It is assumed that the secretary of Defense, Secretary of the Army, Navy and Air Force are authorized if death occurs in office, but again there is no clear direction.
This is the same as MFH, right? No. The same ceremonial elements might be presented, but no one from the military is involved. this means pallbearers; flag fold and presentation; Color guard; firing party volleys; and the sounding Taps is not forbidden, they are performed by first responders or others.
The Casket and the Flag
Every American is authorized to have a flag drape their casket. Who carries the casket and who folds the flag are the questions that need answers. Here are the answers:
- Members of the US military can informally carry the casket of any American.
- An example of this would be a Soldier who wears his uniform in honor of and carries the casket for a family member who was a veteran or not a veteran.
- Members of the US military cannot formally carry the casket of any American civilian. This is tantamount to MFH.
- An example of this would be an American who never served- a civilian.
- Another example is an American who never served in the US military but volunteered with the Coast Guard Auxiliary, Civil Air Patrol, or Naval Sea Cadet Corps- still a civilian.
- Members of the US military only fold the American flag and only for veterans.
- ROTC cadets and midshipmen, once under contract, are authorized MFH.
- US Military, US Naval, and US Air Force Academy cadets and midshipmen are authorized MFH.
- JROTC, Sea Cadets, CAP cadets
Avoidance of US government endorsement is the guiding principle.
What is Authorized?
Cadets of each organization can form a color guard for the deceased. CAP, NSCC, and CGA cadets can form color guards for any occasion. Adults in these programs should not, although CAP authorizes an adult member to step in as a last result.
The color guard can present (and post) the colors for a memorial inside a chapel. The team can then retrieve the colors and stand at graveside for that ceremony. If the flag will be presented to the family inside the chapel, don’t retire the colors as that is a final act, the flag presentation needs to be highlighted and last.
There is no problem with cadets carrying a casket and folding the American flag.
Every American can have a small-star interment flag drape their casket.
Cremated remains? That means you pre-fold the flag and carry it and the urn (to the left of or behind the flag) to the graveside. You don’t have to unfold and refold the flag to present it, but you can. The flag must be folded before the service. The option is unfolding and refolding.
The first part of honors.
Most likely the cadets could borrow rifles for firing the three volleys from a veteran’s group.
The second part of honors.
When Taps is sounded, everyone stands at Attention. It is never sounded with anything else going on, everything stops. A cadet can use an electronic bugle or play his/her own horn.
Flag Fold and Presentation
This is the final part of honors.
There is nothing wrong with CAP cadet folding the flag and presenting it to the family.