A government headstone or marker is made available to any person around the globe who is a relative to an eligible veteran. This is done for free by the department of veteran affairs. But, spouses and dependents who are buried in private cemeteries are not eligible for this privilege.
The markers available are in marble, granite and bronze. Others include upright headstones in marble and granite. The style of choice must be uniform with the existing monuments in the cemetery of burial. There are also Niche markers meant for marking columbaria which acts an urn for cremation remains.
In cases where burial or memorialization happens to be in a post, national or cemetery belonging to a state, cemetery officials will provide a headstone or marker in line with the inscription content availed by the next of kin.
Individuals eligible for a government marker or headstone in a non-state cemetery are:
- Members of the armed forces and veterans (army, air force, navy, coast guard, marine corps)
- Any member of the United states armed forces who dies while serving the state
- Any veteran who was dismissed under conditions which cannot be considered dishonorable
- Reserve Components and Reserve Officers’ Training Corps members
- Reservists and National Guard members who were entitled to receiving retirement packages at the time of death or who would have been eligible if they had been at least 60 years of age
- Members of reserve components who lose their lives while in hospital or receiving treatment whose costs are borne by the United States in compensation for injuries or diseases contracted while on training, duty or receiving treatment for such
- Reserve Officers’ Training Corps members belonging to the army, air force or navy who lose their lives under honorable conditions such as attending a training camp, travelling to or from camp with the authorities’ approval or receiving treatment covered by the United Sates for injuries or diseases suffered under honorable conditions
- Reserve components’ members who during a time frame of active service had become disabled or lost their lives after incurring a disease or injury while on duty, active duty training or who during inactive duty training suffered death due to injuries sustained therein.
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Commissioned officers
- An officer commissioned by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration while on full time duty prior to July the 29th or on this day of 1945
- An officer who is commissioned and served prior to the 29th of July, 1945
- Worked in an area of impending military hazard during war or due to a state of emergency declared by the secretary of defense
- Served in islands such as the Philippine islands on the 7th of December of the year 1941 and continued to do after this date
- Transferred to the army or navy departments in line with the May 22, 1977 Act
- Public Health Service
- Regular or Reserve Corps commissioned officers who are in public service on full time on or beyond the date of 29th July, 1945. In case the service of a certain officer of the Public Health Service can be classified as active duty for training, one must have died from a disease or disabled due to injuries sustained while on duty
- Regular or Reserve Corps commissioned officers belonging to the Public Health Service who served on a full time basis prior to the 29th of July, 1945
- During war
- On duty with the navy, air force, Coast Guard or Marine Corps
- Before the service ceased to be a constituent of the United States military forces in line with the president’s executive order
- A commissioned officer on inactive duty training who died due to injury sustained or deteriorated while on duty
- World War II merchant mariners
- Merchant mariners belonging to the united states with active ocean service between the 7th of December, 1941 and the 31st December, 1946
- Merchant mariners of the United States who in support of Operation Mulberry served on block ships during the 2nd World War
Persons not eligible
If you fall under one of the following categories, you or your family may not be considered eligible for any headstone or mark issued by government:
- Disqualifying characters of discharge: individuals who became separated from the Armed forces on the basis of dishonorable conditions or one whose veteran benefits were barred on account of a poor character of service
- Discharge from draft: an individual who the military had not inducted despite receiving an order to report to an induction station
- An individual convicted of any capital crime: in case an individual is given a death or life sentence without parole on account of a federal capital crime, one is automatically disqualified from receiving a free government headstone or marker. This also applies to individuals who die prior to conviction or who avoided conviction even when the evidence against them is beyond reasonable doubt
- Subversive activities: all individuals guilty of committing subversive activities beyond the 1st of September, 1959 are automatically deemed ineligible for a burial in a state cemetery from as well as after the date of committing such an offence. This also applies to any other person related to that person or a beneficiary on account of that person. But, eligibility will be restored following the United States president pardon.
- Active or inactive duty for training: National Guard or Reserve Component persons whose sole service is inactive duty or active duty training may not be eligible if they do not meet the following conditions:
- They are reservists and National Guard members deserving retirement packages at the time of death or who would have been entitled to a retirement package if not for being below the age of 60
- Reserve Component members who suffer death while under hospitalization or receiving treatment covered by the United States on account of injury or disease suffered under honorable circumstances during active or inactive duty for training or undergoing such treatment
- Reserve Officers’ Training Corps belonging to the Army, Air Force or Navy who suffer death under honorable circumstances during an authorized training camp period or while travelling to or from the camp following the authorities’ approval or receiving treatment whose costs are covered by the United States on account of injuries or diseases contracted during such activities
- Reserve component members who suffered disability or death during active duty for training due to a disease or injury sustained or deteriorated while on active duty
- Other groups: individuals belonging to groups whose service has been deemed ineligible for benefits which are under the secretary of veteran affairs
Settling government headstones as well as markers
Setting the headstones and markers is the responsibility of the cemetery staff in state, military base and military-post cemeteries. This is done for free provided the applicant meets all the conditions highlighted above. Certain veteran run cemeteries may not set a government-furnished marker or headstone without charging the applicant a nominal fee. All expenses for setting a headstone or marker furnished by government in a private cemetery are covered by the individual or family involved.
Replacement headstones and markers
Replacement of headstones and markers provided by government may be replaced at no fee if they are in an exceedingly deplorable state, vandalized, illegible or stolen. This also applies to situations where the inscription is not correct, got damaged while being shipped or workmanship fails to meet the specifications of the contract.
In case cemetery personnel in a private cemetery happen to damage a government marker or headstone, the cemetery is responsible for paying all costs associated with the replacement. Marble as well as granite headstones or markers that are removed from a specific grave on a permanent basis must be destroyed completely. All bronze markers that remain on site following the close of the marking process must be returned to the contractor responsible for the marking process.
If you are in need of any guidance regarding obtaining a replacement for your marker or headstone, you are free to get in touch with the Memorial Programs Service Applicant Assistant Unit on 800-697-6947. This also applies to any kind of queries or matters related to the replacement of markers of headstones on graves belonging to military individuals who meet the conditions above.