Active duty, retired, National Guard, Reserve or Merchant Marine service members who received an honorable discharge are entitled to a military funeral honors ceremony at no cost to the family.

“The rendering of military funeral honors is a tribute and a way to show our nation’s deep gratitude to veterans and their families who are entitled,” said Frank Norwood, Maine military funeral honors coordinator.

Section 578 of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2000 requires the Department of Defense to provide, upon request, military funeral honors for eligible veterans.

The Maine Military Funeral Honors Program began performing ceremonies for Maine’s veterans in 2004. Since its inception, it has performed nearly 5,000 ceremonies from Fort Kent to Kittery and eastern Canada.

According to Maine Veteran’s Administration statistics, Maine is losing nearly 4,000  veterans a year. This rate is expected to continue with very slow reductions through the year 2030.

Before the law passed, many veterans did not have access to a military funeral honors ceremony.

The Maine Military Funeral Honors Team also provides military honors to any honorably discharged veteran who was not honored at the time of death. Funeral directors or family members can call and request this service. Currently, members of the Maine Military Funeral Honors Team are full-time service members and are trained to the highest possible standards.

“The service members selected to perform these ceremonies for Maine’s veterans are extremely proud of what they are doing,” Norwood said. “They have the utmost respect and admiration for those who served before them.”

There are nine military funeral honors trainers on the team who have attended a two-week course and been certified as instructors by the National Guard Bureau.

“Veterans of Maine will receive a military funeral honors ceremony performed to the same high standard as those ceremonies being performed at Arlington National Cemetery,” said Norwood.

“I strongly encourage all veterans residing in Maine to allow these dedicated members of the United States military to perform this ceremony and to simply express our appreciation for their dedicated service to our country,” he added.

For more information, visit funeralhonors.org or call the state coordinator in Augusta at 800-958-5967.