Updated February 24, 2019: I will be posting about Arlington National Cemetery on February 26, 2019: https://upsdownsfamilyhistory.wordpress.com/2019/02/26/arlington-national-cemetery-tombstone-tuesdays (link will be active once the post goes live at 10:10 A. M. U. S. Central Time).
This week’s cemetery focus is on the V. A. Nationwide Gravesite Locator: https://gravelocator.cem.va.gov and general guidelines on what it takes to get a headstone or medallion for a qualifying veteran. You can learn more about the V. A. on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Department_of_Veterans_Affairs or the V. A. website: https://www.va.gov/.
See below for reasons your relative is not listed on the V. A. site. For example, the V. A. has detailed information on who is a qualifying veteran. It gets complicated and I tried to offer explanations or quoted sections from the V. A. website.
In addition to the below information, the V. A. may provide a headstone or medallion, but they don’t cover the cost of setting the headstone or adding the medallion to an existing headstone. Some cemeteries may waive the fee, but many don’t. The fees can be very high in some cemeteries. There are a few unusual exceptions to a few of the below rules and regulations, but I always have trouble finding them. In addition, some of the headstones have restrictions that are specified below.
Some key things to note about this site are that it’s mostly only V. A. related so Arlington National Cemetery and most other non-V. A. cemeteries aren’t included. it’s in the quote below, but another major exception is pre-1997; no word if this applies if a subsequent marker was furnished later by the V. A.
Names cannot be added to the listing if a government grave marker was not furnished for the grave, or if the existing government grave marker was furnished prior to 1997.
From the above link:
The database of burial information is updated each day.
Search for burial locations of veterans and their family members in VA National Cemeteries, state veterans cemeteries, various other military and Department of Interior cemeteries, and for veterans buried in private cemeteries when the grave is marked with a government grave marker.
The Nationwide Gravesite Locator includes burial records from many sources. These sources provide varied data; some searches may contain less information than others. Information on veterans buried in private cemeteries was collected for the purpose of furnishing government grave markers, and we do not have information available for burials prior to 1997.
Erroneous information can be corrected, but we are unable to add to the information contained in the existing record.
If your search returns incorrect information about a veteran or family member buried in a national cemetery, please contact the cemetery directly to discuss your findings.
To report incorrect information about a veteran buried in a private cemetery, click on “Contact Us” at the top of this page. Names cannot be added to the listing if a government grave marker was not furnished for the grave, or if the existing government grave marker was furnished prior to 1997.
For more complete information concerning individual records, we suggest you contact the cemetery or local officials.
If you cannot locate the person you are searching for, please provide the following information on each individual:
- Full name, including any alternate spellings
- Date and place of birth
- Date and place of death
- State from which the individual entered active duty
- Military service branch
Most requests take approximately four weeks for a reply. Be sure to include your return mailing address, phone number or Internet e-mail address with your request and send it to:
- U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
- National Cemetery Administration (43A1)
- Burial Location Request
- 810 Vermont Ave., NW
- Washington, DC 20420
If the headstone was furnished for a veteran after 1996, then it should be searchable on the website.
Here are some basic FAQs: https://www.cem.va.gov/cem/faq.asp.
There are some other exclusions as to who qualifies for a military headstone. There are several links below to clarify. In some cases, when a person died makes a difference in whether or not a person qualifies for a headstone marker if they already have a private headstone. For example, if a qualifying veteran died on or after November 1, 1990, they are eligible for a headstone or marker. If they died before this date, they don’t qualify if they have a private headstone. The rules for what qualifies as a headstone get convoluted depending on exactly when they died.
Eligibility for a Headstone or Medallion: https://www.cem.va.gov/cem/hmm/eligibility.asp.
Eligibility for a Headstone or Marker
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) furnishes upon request, at no charge to the applicant, a Government headstone or marker for the unmarked grave of any deceased eligible Veteran in any cemetery around the world, regardless of their date of death. VA may also furnish a headstone or marker for graves marked with a private headstone or marker, for Veterans who died on or after Nov. 1, 1990.
Any deceased Veteran discharged under conditions other than dishonorable and any member of the Armed Forces of the United States who dies on active duty may be eligible. Service after Sep. 7, 1980, as an enlisted person, and service after Oct. 16, 1981, as an officer, must be for a minimum of 24 months continuous active duty or be completed under special circumstances (e.g., death on active duty). Persons who have only limited active duty service for training while in the National Guard or Reserves are not eligible unless there are special circumstances (e.g., death while on active duty or as a result of training). Reservists and National Guard members who, at the time of death, were entitled to retired pay, or would have been entitled, but for being under the age of 60 are eligible. Reservists called to active duty other than training and National Guard members who Federalized and who serve for the period are called are eligible. Service prior to World War I requires detailed documentation (e.g., muster rolls, extracts from State files, military or State organization where served, pension or land warrant, etc.). Hmong individuals who were naturalized under the Hmong Veterans Naturalization Act of 2000, who died on or after March 23, 2018 and who resided in the U.S. at the time of death, please read this fact sheet for more information.
Spouses and dependents are not eligible for a Government-furnished headstone or marker unless they are buried in a national, state Veterans’, or military post/base cemetery.
Eligibility for a Bronze and Medal of Honor Medallion
The Department of Veterans Affairs provides two types of medallions, by request, to be affixed to an existing, privately purchased headstone or marker to signify the deceased’s status as a Veteran or Veteran/Servicemember who is also a Medal of Honor recipient.
These devices are furnished in lieu of a traditional Government headstone or grave marker for those Veterans who served on or after April 6, 1917, and whose grave in a private cemetery is marked with a privately purchased headstone or marker.
Any deceased Veteran discharged under conditions other than dishonorable who served in the Armed Forces on or after Apr. 6, 1917 or any member of the Armed Forces of the United States who dies on active duty, and is buried in a private cemetery in a grave marked with a privately purchased headstone or marker may be eligible. Service after Sep. 7, 1980 must be for a minimum of 24 months continuous active duty or be completed under special circumstances (e.g., death on active duty). Persons who have only limited active duty service for training while in the National Guard or Reserves are not eligible unless there are special circumstances (e.g., death while on active duty or as a result of training). Reservists and National Guard members who, at the time of death, were entitled to retired pay, or would have been entitled, but for being under the age of 60 are eligible. Reservists called to active duty other than training and National Guard members who are Federalized and who serve for the period called are eligible. VA may furnish a medallion to be attached to a headstone or marker furnished at private expense of a commissioned officer who had active service in Public Health Service on or after April 6, 1917.
Spouses and dependents are not eligible for a medallion.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) furnishes upon request, at no charge to the applicant, a Government headstone or marker for the unmarked grave of any deceased eligible Veteran in any cemetery around the world, regardless of their date of death.
A Government-furnished headstone or marker may be provided for eligible Veterans who died on or after Nov. 1, 1990 and whose grave is marked with a privately purchased headstone. A Government-furnished medallion may be provided for eligible Veterans who served on or after Apr. 6, 1917 and whose grave is marked with a privately purchased headstone or marker.
Flat markers in granite, marble, and bronze and upright headstones in granite and marble are available. Bronze niche markers are also available to mark columbaria used for inurnment of cremated remains. The style chosen must be permitted by the officials in charge of the private cemetery where it will be placed.
When burial or memorialization is in a national cemetery, state Veterans’ cemetery, or military post/base cemetery, a headstone or marker will be ordered by the cemetery officials based on inscription information provided by the next of kin or authorized representative.
Spouses and dependents are not eligible for a Government-furnished headstone or marker unless they are buried in a national cemetery, state Veteran’s cemetery, or military post/base cemetery.
Note: There is no charge for the headstone or marker itself, however arrangements for placing it in a private cemetery are the applicant’s responsibility and all setting fees are at private expense.
Setting Government Headstones and Markers
Cemetery staff in national, military post, and military base cemeteries are responsible for setting the headstone or marker at no cost to the applicant. Some state Veterans’ cemeteries may charge the applicant a nominal fee for setting a Government-furnished headstone or marker.
Arrangements for setting a Government-furnished headstone or marker in a private cemetery are the applicant’s responsibility and all placement costs are at private expense.
Cleaning and Caring for Government Headstones and Markers
The National Park Service’s National Center for Preservation Technology and Training completed a study in 2011 to evaluate general cleaning needs of marble government-issued headstones. The findings are found in Best Practice Recommendations for Cleaning Government-Issued Headstones.*
Checking Status of a Headstone, Marker or Medallion Request
To obtain the status of headstones or markers ordered for national or state cemeteries, please contact the cemetery directly.
To obtain the status of headstones or markers ordered for private cemeteries, please use the following instructions: If more than 30 days have passed since your claim was submitted to the VA in Washington, D.C. by you, or someone assisting you, please call our Applicant Assistance Unit to verify we are in receipt of your claim.
If more than 60 days have passed since submitting your claim and the grave is still not marked, you should contact the cemetery, funeral home, or other party responsible for accepting delivery of the headstone, marker or medallion to see if they have received it. If they have not received it, you may call our Applicant Assistance Unit between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. (ET), Monday through Friday, at 1-800-697-6947.
You may also click on the “Contact Us” link to check the status of your order.
Please Note: The above telephone number is for questions related to headstones, markers and medallions only ordered for private cemeteries.
For assistance in obtaining Veterans’ records or for information on other VA benefits, please call your local Department of Veterans Affairs Regional Office at 1-800-827-1000 or click on “Contact Us” above.
Memorial Headstones and Markers
Memorial headstones and markers, for individuals or groups, are furnished for eligible deceased active duty service members and Veterans whose remains are not recovered or identified, are buried at sea, donated to science or whose cremated remains have been scattered.
Memorial headstones and markers may also be furnished in national, military post/base or state Veterans cemeteries to eligible spouses whose remains are unavailable for interment, whether or not they predecease the eligible Veteran.
These headstones and markers bear an “IN MEMORY OF” inscription as their first line and must be placed in a recognized cemetery.
Memorial headstones and markers for spouses and other dependents are not available for placement in private cemeteries.
A VA Form 40-1330, Claim for Standard Government Headstone or Marker must be submitted to request a burial or memorial headstone or marker.
* NOTE: Link will take you outside the Department of Veterans Affairs web site.
Pre-World War I Era Headstones and Markers: https://www.cem.va.gov/cem/hmm/pre_WWI_era.asp
There are specific styles of upright marble headstones to mark the graves of Civil War Union soldiers and Spanish-American War dead. These historical styles were reintroduced recently and are inscribed in raised lettering inside a recessed shield. These recessed-shield headstones are available in three marble (X) sizes or one granite (Y) size. “A” is 12” wide, 3” thick, and 42” high, ”B” is 13” wide, 3” thick and 42” high, and “C” is 10” wide, 3” thick and 39” high. To request a historical upright marble headstone, check the Upright Marble in block 11 and write “XA”, “XB”, or “XC” above it or to request the granite recessed-shield headstone, check the Upright Granite in block 11 and write “YA” above it.
The inscription on the recessed-shield headstone is limited. For Civil War Union and Spanish American War, a shield is inscribed which encompasses the arched name and abbreviated military organization. Because of the special design and historical uniform significance, no emblem of belief or additional inscription may be inscribed. The dates of birth and death are inscribed below the shield.
A special style is also available to mark the graves of Confederate war dead. These special styles are available in upright marble or granite. To request this special style select the appropriate box in block 11 for upright marble (U) or upright granite (V) and write the words “special style – confederate” in block 11.
The inscription on the special style for Civil War Confederate is also limited. The Southern Cross of Honor is automatically inscribed at the top. The name is arched, followed by abbreviated military organization and dates of birth and death. No additional items can be inscribed. If a flat marker is desired for a Confederate soldier, the Southern Cross of Honor can be inscribed if requested, or any of the other approved emblems may be inscribed if requested.
For periods of war other than the Civil War or Spanish American War, traditional styles of headstones and markers can also be requested. Traditional styles include upright marble or granite headstones and flat bronze, granite, or marble markers.
Proof of military service prior to World War I requires detailed primary documentation, such as Compiled Military Service Records (CMSR), extracts from official State files, Federal pension documents or land warrants, to be considered for a Government-furnished headstone or marker. Copies of CMSRs and Federal pension records are available through National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Washington, D.C. If the applicant is unable to visit NARA, copies of these documents can be ordered via telephone, mail and Internet. CMSRs can be ordered from NARA by the applicant for a fee of $25; the documentation usually ships in 60-90 days. Pension records can be ordered from NARA for a fee of $25 or $75 (depending on whether the applicant requests a partial or complete file) and usually ships in 60-90 days.(The papers provided in a partial pension file will generally contain appropriate information to document military service.) Fees and time periods are subject to change. For further up-to-date information, refer to NARA’s web page on Pre-World War I military service records.
Headstone and Marker Inscription Abbreviations: https://www.cem.va.gov/cem/hmm/abbreviations.asp (link includes PDF files)
Available Emblems of Belief for Placement on Government Headstones and Markers: https://www.cem.va.gov/cem/hmm/emblems.asp (some have changed over the years, but these are the versions available now).
Print version of Available Emblems of Belief.
No graphics (logos, symbols, etc.) are permitted on Government-furnished headstones or markers other than the available emblems of belief, the Civil War Union Shield, the Civil War Confederate Southern Cross of Honor, and the Medal of Honor insignias.
An emblem of belief for inscription on a Government headstone or marker is an emblem or symbol that represents the sincerely held belief of the decedent that constituted a religion or the functional equivalent of religion and was believed and/or accepted as true by that individual during his or her life. The belief represented by an emblem need not be associated with or endorsed by a group or organization.
Emblems of belief for inscription on Government headstones and markers do not include social, cultural, ethnic, civic, fraternal, trade, commercial, political, professional or military emblems. VA will not inscribe any emblem on a headstone or marker that would have an adverse impact on the dignity and solemnity of cemeteries honoring those who served the Nation. Emblems that would not be permitted include (but are not limited to), emblems that contain explicit or graphic depictions or descriptions of sexual organs or sexual activities that are shocking, titillating, or pandering in nature; and emblems that display coarse or abusive language or images.
If you are applying for a headstone or marker and the emblem you desire is not currently available, please see information below:
Who Can Request a New Emblem of Belief?
CFR 38.632 rule states that the following individuals may request a new emblem of belief for inscription on a headstone or marker: the decedent’s next-of-kin (NOK), a person authorized in writing by the NOK, or a personal representative authorized in writing by the decedent.
Instructions for Requesting an Emblem not Available for Inscription
To submit a request for an emblem of belief not available for inscription, the requestor must:
- Establish that there is an immediate need for a Government headstone/marker to be furnished for a deceased eligible individual (i.e., submission of VA-Form 40-1330, for Standard Government Headstone or Marker, verification from national or state Veterans’ cemetery officials).
- Certify that the proposed new emblem of belief represents the decedent’s religious affiliation or sincerely held religious belief system, or a sincerely held belief system that was functionally equivalent to a religious belief system in the life of the decedent.
- Submit a three-inch diameter digitized black and white representation of the requested emblem that is free of copyright or trademark restrictions or authorized by the owner for inscription on Government-furnished headstones and markers and can be reproduced in a production-line environment in stone or bronze without loss of graphic quality.
Submit all information to the following address:
Memorial Products Service (41B)
Department of Veterans Affairs
5109 Russell Road
Quantico, VA 22134-3903
Previous Tombstone Tuesdays posts: https://upsdownsfamilyhistory.wordpress.com/tag/Tombstone-tuesday/