Today I sang at the funeral of a man who lived a full life serving God and Country. He was given military honors which includes a 3-volley salute.
The practice of firing three rifle volleys over the grave originated in the old custom of halting the fighting to remove the dead from the battlefield. Once each army had cleared their dead, it would fire three volleys to indicate that the dead had been cared for and that they were ready to fight again. It is the three volleys that are significant, not the number of rifles. Three volleys fired over the casket have become a tradition to mean the dead have been cared for. It has evolved into a military salute for the deceased serving their country. Firing the three volleys over the casket is one of the highest honors to give a deceased military veteran. Our nation’s highest honor is a flag draped over the casket, folded and presented. Tradition is to place three spent shell casings inside the folded flag to prove now and forevermore that the deceased and his flag have had proper military honors. Nothing else is to be placed inside the flag.
I was taken back to a day just over two years ago when I stood in a military chapel as these honors were given for a young soldier, husband and father of someone who has become a very dear friend to me. At that time I didn't understand the ceremony. I was merely deeply shaken by its violence and finality and distraught that she had to endure it. When I saw the soldiers today I wanted to turn around and run away. My heart is tender from the memory of that day and the sting of this one.
I am keenly aware that I could be witnessing this detail at my own husband's funeral and I pray that it will be after he too has had an opportunity to live a full life in service to God and Country.