27 Feb Help With Choosing a Cemetery
Since 1862, when Congress authorized the president to purchase cemetery grounds with the intention of using them for soldiers that had died during service to their country. In 1862, 14 cemeteries were licensed while today more than 3 million Americans are interred in U.S. national cemeteries. Those buried in these locations span all American conflicts from the Revolutionary War to the War on ISIL.
This honorary cemetery space has nearly 17,000 acres of land dedicated to its purpose, with upwards of 300 inheritors of the Medal of Honor interred within them.
Many states maintain one or more cemeteries allotted or reserved for military veterans. Contingent on the state, the eligibility criteria, services rendered, and costs can differ significantly. State-sponsored veterans’ cemeteries can be found here www.cem.va.gov/cem/scg/lsvc.asp. This list also includes links to qualifications, services, and application forms.
Other veterans could qualify for burial in veterans’ cemeteries like Arlington or National Park Service cemeteries in addition to national and state cemeteries.
Veteran and cemetery compatibility
Free burial services are provides for any of the 141 national cemeteries with open space for eligible veterans (“Eligibility for Military Burial”). Services provided by the government include:
- Opening and closing the grave
- Perpetual care
- Government headstone or marker
- Burial flag
- Presidential memorial certificate
If a veteran selects to be cremated their remains are buried or inurned in national cemeteries in a similar method with the same honors as those buried in caskets (read “Giving a Final Salute with Military Funeral Honors”).
Even if preceding the veteran, spouses, and dependents of eligible veterans are additionally eligible for national cemetery burials. The benefits available to spouses and dependents comprise burial with the veteran and perpetual care. The spouse or dependent’s name and date of birth and death are inscribed on the veteran’s headstone at no cost to the family.
If a qualified veteran isn’t buried or commemorated in a national cemetery, a spouse or surviving spouse can still be buried in a national cemetery. Surviving spouses of a member of armed forces whose remains are inaccessible for burial are also eligible for burial in a national cemetery, and, in such a case, the spouse would qualify for a free VA-provided headstone.
A surviving spouse who remarries a nonveteran can be interred in a national cemetery so long as the death of the veteran’s surviving spouse occurred after January 1, 2000.
Eligible dependents include unmarried children under the age of 21, full-time students no older than 23, and unmarried adult children completely physically or mentally disabled and unfit for self-support whose disability resulted before the age of 21, or 23 if a full-time university student.
Service members can be buried in the same grave with a relative already buried at select cemeteries, provided particular standards are met. In order to approve this type of interment, authorization by cemetery staff and approval from the next of kin of the previously deceased relative must be obtained.
National Park Service Cemeteries
Under authority of the U.S. Department of Interior, the National Park Service (NPS) manages 14 cemeteries nationwide:
- Andersonville National Historic Site, Andersonville, Georgia
- Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, Greenville, Tennessee
- Antietam National Cemetery, Sharpsburg, Maryland
- Battleground National Cemetery, Washington, D.C.
- Colonial National Historical Park, Yorktown, Virginia
- Fort Donelson National Battlefield, Dover, Tennessee 154 Part II: A Healthy Look at Medical Care and Compensation Programs
- Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania County Battlefield Memorial National Military Park, Fredericksburg, Virginia
- Gettysburg National Military Park, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
- Jean Lafitte National Historical Park, New Orleans, Louisiana
- Little Bighorn Battle National Monument, Crow Agency, Montana
- Petersburg National Cemetery, Petersburg, Virginia
- Shiloh National Military Park, Shiloh, Tennessee
- Stones River National Battlefield, Murfreesboro, Tennessee
- Vicksburg National Military Park, Vicksburg, Mississippi
Andersonville National Historic Site and Ander Johnson National Historic Site are categorized as active, continuing to inter veterans and dependents. Eligible veterans (“Eligibility for Military Burial”) and their dependents can opt to be interred in either of these cemeteries with no cost to surviving family members.
To receive burial benefits at Andersonville National Historic Site or Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, service members can apply by contacting the Department of Interior by calling 202-208-4747 or at:
Department of Interior,
National Park Service, 1848 C Street, NW,
Washington, DC 20240
Arlington National Cemetery
Arlington National Cemetery holds more than 285,000 individuals interred in their grounds from the Revolutionary War to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Arlington National Cemetery is maintained by the U.S. Army and requires extra eligibility criteria (“Being Interred at Arlington”). More information about Arlington burial management is discussed in the section “Applying for Arlington”.
If eligible for burial, individuals can choose to be inured. Veterans with a completely honorable discharge, their spouses, and dependent children also classify for inurnment. Every niche has space for two urns and is sealed with a marble plaque containing the names and years of birth and death of the deceased.