Funeral Etiquette for Wearing a Military Uniform

The etiquette for military attire is clearly defined.
... Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Military funerals follow very specific protocols, including those regarding the wearing of the uniform. When attending a civilian service, whether active duty, reserve, retired or separated, military personnel should bear in mind that the service is to honor the deceased and to comfort the mourners. If wearing a uniform to the funeral would focus attention on the wearer, rather than on the person who died, it is better to wear civilian clothes.

1 Authorization

Only those authorized to do so by military regulations should wear a military uniform to a funeral. Generally, active duty, reserve and retired personnel, along with those who separated without a dishonorable discharge, may wear their uniforms to "occasions of ceremony," which the Army Regulation 670-1, describes as primarily military in nature. Non-active duty personnel are required to conform to the same appearance standards as current military members.

2 Which Uniform?

Service uniforms or dress uniforms are acceptable funeral wear, while the Battle Dress Uniform is not appropriate for the occasion. In most cases, the uniform should include all decorations, medals, badges, ribbons and insignia, although active personnel should defer to the commanding officer's directive. Retired personnel may wear the uniform that matches their grade at the time of retirement, and they may opt for the current design or for the one that was authorized when they retired. White gloves are optional, unless required by the commanding officer or other specific regulations of the military installation.

3 Badge of Military Mourning

At the commanding officer's discretion, uniformed personnel may add a brassard to the left sleeve of the outer garment, between the shoulder and the elbow. The badge is a straight, 3-inch to 4-inch band of plain black fabric.

4 Hats and Salutes

When "covered," or wearing a hat, those in uniform should salute when the hearse passes them, when the casket is moved and when it is lowered into the grave. During the firing of the gun volley and during the sounding of "Taps," a salute is also expected. If not wearing head covering, uniformed persons should place their right hand over their heart and stand at attention at those times.

For the most part, military uniforms should include hats whenever the wearer is outside, including drill halls when used for funerals.

Pamela Martin has been writing since 1979. She has written newsletter articles and curricula-related materials. She also writes about teaching and crafts. Martin was an American Society of Newspaper Editors High School Journalism Fellow. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Teaching in elementary education from Sam Houston State University and a Master of Arts in curriculum/instruction from the University of Missouri.