A deceased soldier or veteran is entitled to salutes at his funeral or during a Ramp Ceremony on deployment. A Ramp Ceremony is held when a soldier is killed in combat and his casket is loaded on a military aircraft. Generally, only soldiers are present at a Ramp Ceremony. It is only appropriate for service members and veterans to render a hand salute to a fallen soldier; civilians should never render a hand salute. However, it is appropriate for civilians to salute the fallen soldier by removing their hats and placing their right hand over their heart, just as they would during the National Anthem.
Saluting at Military Funerals
Approach the casket in an orderly manner after the first row of funeral guests passes. The first row of funeral guests is generally comprised of the next-of-kin and other family and friends. Wait until all civilians have passed the casket before taking your place in the file. Use Army marching techniques and facing movements to approach the casket. If you are marching concurrently with another soldier, march in step; the highest ranking soldier must whisper cadence as you approach the casket.
Halt three steps in front of the casket and stand at the position of attention. If you are with another soldier, the highest ranking soldier between you must whisper the command, "Present arms."
Slowly raise your right hand into a salute. Unlike normal salutes, a funeral salute must be executed slowly and respectfully. Hold the salute for approximately three seconds or until the higher-ranking soldier issues the command, "Order arms." This command must also be issued in hushed tones. Slowly lower your hand and resume the position of attention.
Execute a facing movement toward the exit door. Do not do an about-face movement if the only exit is behind you; instead, execute a right- or left-face and walk around the seating area to get to the exit. If you are with another soldier, the higher-ranking between you issues the facing command.
March forward after you have executed your facing movement. If you are with another soldier, the higher-ranking soldier whispers the command, "Forward, march." Continue marching until you have exited the room.
Saluting During Ramp Ceremonies
Stand in formation while you await the arrival of the fallen soldier's casket. If you are leading the formation, call your troops to attention when the casket comes into view. If you are a member of the formation, you will be ordered to the position of attention at the appropriate time.
Issue the command "Present arms" when the casket is five paces away from the end of your formation if you are leading the formation. If you are a member of the formation, raise your right hand in a normal salute when issued the command "Present arms."
Issue the command "Order arms" when the casket is placed inside the military aircraft for departure. If you are a member of the formation, hold the salute until you are ordered to drop it.
Wear your best uniform to a military funeral or Ramp Ceremony out of respect for the fallen soldier.
Never drop your salute before a casket is secured inside a military aircraft. Doing so is disrespectful to your comrade.
- Mark Wilson/Getty Images News/Getty Images