Honor Guard 101: Urn Procedures
Members of the Fairfax County Honor Guard
Lt. Ken Baine | Fairfax County Police Department
In this article I will talk about the honors given to a fallen officer who is cremated. As Honor Guard commanders you should make contact with the funeral director to see what type of urn the family has selected; urns come in all shapes, sizes and weights. A folded National Flag should be dropped off at the funeral home prior to the family’s arrival. Inside the church two stands should be in place in front of the altar, one for the urn and one for the flag. We use a cherry wood easel to hold the flag in place.
The family normally arrives at the church with the urn long before the service starts. Most urns are transported to the church in a family vehicle, but for a Line of Duty funeral, I recommend a hearse to transport the officer’s remains. Once they arrive, the vehicle door should be opened by the funeral director and two Honor Guard team members should march up to the car and family and render a hand salute. First team member should take the National Flag and touch it to the urn. Then the second team member should take possession of the urn. The team member with the National Flag will march first toward the church and should carry the flag as shown in the picture. The other team member follows behind with the urn.
The urn is always set down first on the stand to the right when facing the altar. Then, the National Flag is touched on the urn and displayed on the stand to the left. Once the flag and urn are in place, both team members should render a hand salute, take one step backward, do an about face, and march out of the church.
After the service, both team members march in and stop in front of the National Flag and urn. They should render a hand salute. The National Flag is touched to the urn first and held as shown in the picture. Then the urn is picked up and both team members take one step backward and do an about face. The team member holding the National Flag steps off first followed by the team member with the urn.
Most of the time, the family will take the urn home in the family vehicle. If the urn is to be buried or placed in a mausoleum, you can elect to refold the flag over the urn prior to presenting it to the family or present the already folded flag to the family once the graveside service is over.
I imagine most Honor Guards do not routinely practice for this type of funeral service so it is important to have a procedure in place in the event that your fallen officer or retiree is cremated.