Ceremonial belts for Quartermaster Corps officers are manufactured in the branch color of Buff, which was originally approved for the Quartermaster Department in 1884. The buckle features the Coat of Arms of the United States of America, which is the obverse of the Great Seal of the United States. Ceremonial belts are worn with the Army Service Uniform during special ceremonies such as military parades, change of command, or funerals.
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Many Americans take it for granted that our military will not leave behind the remains of fallen personnel, and that when they are brought back to our country they are properly identified and treated with the deepest respect and consideration. In the Army, the retrieval, identification, and transportation of Soldiers who have made the supreme sacrifice in the service of their country is the responsibility of the Quartermaster Corps, and is carried out by Mortuary Affairs Specialists (92M).

The origins of the Mortuary Affairs MOS date to 1862, when Congress passed legislation establishing a national cemetery system for the interment of Soldiers who died while serving their country. But building cemeteries for fallen warriors is one thing; recovering and identifying them during and after combat actions another matter entirely. It’s estimated that just three out of five Union soldiers who died in combat or in an Army hospital were subsequently identified prior to burial.

Aware that both Soldiers and civilians strongly believed in a decent burial for men and women who had given their lives fighting to defend our nation, the Army established minimal standards for the handling and care of remains during the Spanish-American War: they were to be buried in temporary graves along with a bottle containing written identification information, then exhumed and returned to the United States at the war’s end. These tasks were assigned to the Quartermaster Corps, which contracted civilian employees, many of the morticians, to form burial corps to charged with the exhumation of the bodies being returned to the U.S.

The system was a vast improvement, resulting in an identification rate of almost ninety percent, and was employed in the fighting that continued in the Philippines following the end of the Spanish-American War. Captain Charles Pierce, placed in charge of the U.S. Army Morgue and Office of Identification, introduced several advances that advanced what eventually came to be called Mortuary Affairs, including the collection of all pertinent information regarding the identity of fallen Soldiers, but also the location and cause of death.

Pierce also made advances in embalming techniques and made it official practice for deceased soldiers to receive new uniforms for burial, but arguably his biggest contribution was a recommendation he made as he prepared to leave the Philippines: Identification tags, or dog tags as they quickly came to be called after they were made standard issue in 1913.

Shortly after the outbreak of World War I, the Graves Registration Service was established within the Quartermaster Corps; it ballooned from an initial size of two officers and roughly fifty enlisted men to more than 7,000 enlisted personnel and 150 officers by the war’s end. In 1991, the Graves Registration Service was redesignated Mortuary Affairs, and today the Army has achieved a 100 percent identification rate, providing the family and friends of fallen soldiers with the knowledge that the remains of their loved ones have been recovered and returned to their homeland with the utmost in respect and care.

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