U.S. Veteran memorials

For many years one of my personal projects has been to mark the graves of ancestors without gravestones.  In the case of ancestors who were honorably discharged from the United States military, I honor their memory by adding an inscription relating to their service.  If this idea seems appealing to you, you may wish to know that the United States government will assist in creating and will often pay the costs to erect a standard upright or flat marker for military veterans’ graves.

You will need to download and fill out the PDF form [VA 40-1330] from the Veteran’s Administration website: http://www.va.gov/vaforms/va/pdf/VA40-1330.pdf

Depending on the restrictions of the particular cemetery, you will want to inquire what type of grave marker is permissible. In most cases there are no restrictions on the bronze or gray granite flat markers.  Photographs of the various styles of markers are provided in the aforementioned PDF form.  My personal preference is the upright light gray granite marker, as it will outlast a white marble marker, which is made of a softer stone.  I would also advise using the light gray granite versus the bronze flat marker, as the marker may face metal corrosion in later years.

The information for the marker inscription is self-explanatory: name, rank, life dates of the veteran, his or her branch of service, and the regiment or vessel to which your relative was attached.  You can also choose from a variety of religious emblems to be engraved upon the stone.

Proof of honorable discharge for the veteran must go with the request.  In the case of the markers I have had made for Massachusetts Civil War veterans, a copy from the published set of Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors and Marines in the Civil War volumes provided the necessary proof. The form then needs to be sent to the Veteran Agent in the city or town where your relative is buried.  The Veteran Agent can also inquire about the cost involved in the installation of the monument base.

In some cases communities have funds set up to cover these costs; otherwise, you will be asked to pay for the installation.  Using this service is a wonderful way to pay honor to an ancestor who formerly had no marker over his or her grave.

David Allen Lambert

About David Allen Lambert

David Lambert has been on the staff of NEHGS since 1993 and is the organization’s Chief Genealogist. David is an internationally recognized speaker on the topics of genealogy and history. His genealogical expertise includes New England and Atlantic Canadian records of the 17th through 21st century; military records; DNA research; and Native American and African American genealogical research in New England. Lambert has published many articles in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, the New Hampshire Genealogical Record, Rhode Island Roots, The Mayflower Descendant, and American Ancestors magazine. He has also published A Guide to Massachusetts Cemeteries (NEHGS, 2009). David is an elected Fellow of the Massachusetts Historical Society in Boston, Mass., and a life member of the New Hampshire Society of the Cincinnati. He is also the tribal genealogist for the Massachuset-Punkapoag Indians of Massachusetts.

4 thoughts on “U.S. Veteran memorials

  1. David, we did this a couple of years ago for my husband’s cousin. He was a Vietnam War Veteran and was honorably discharged but died pennyless only having enough insurance to bury him and nothing left for a headstone. The process was quite easy. The stone was delivered to our home by UPS. A word of caution, these stones are VERY heavy! Somewhere between 300-500 pounds. We had to get help from the local VFW to set it in the cemetery. But it is beautiful and I am so glad we did this to honor my husband’s cousin.

  2. This is a wonderful service that the V.A. provides to honor our vets. However, please be sure that your vet is actually buried where you place the marker. A relative of mine went “hog-wild” and placed “new” markers in more than one cemetery for several of my ancestors. So this means that one of each pair is a cenotaph rather than an actual burial marker. Sometimes the records are not good enough to tell which is which! I also wonder how people are handling the practice of parceling out ashes of one individual to more than one place, e.g. with multiple spouses, or with spouses and parents). Please make sure that the written cemetery records are detailed enough to tell us what happened.

  3. David, I have a Rev War ancestor, John Parker, from Gorham, Maine with documented service as proven in his widow’s pension application and government war records. However, information on his death is limited in my research to date, to “died at sea,” about 1792, with no burial therefore at a cemetery and no tombstone or marker. His widow, Elizabeth Warren Parker, was buried, along with many other Parker family members, in a small cemetery in Durham, Maine known as the Parker Cemetery.There would certainly be space there to erect some sort of veteran’s memorial to him. Would this be a possibility worth pursuing.given there is no grave? Was it customary in a cemetery at that period of time not to have any marker if the deceased was lost and buried at sea? This has always bothered me, given all the war records show of his extensive Rev War service.in four different campaigns, from Boston in 1775 to the ill-fated Bagaduce Expedition in Castine, Maine in 1779…

  4. Hi David, sounds like you do some wonderful, exciting work!
    my Nova Scotia ancestry is from Pierre Cyr! My Mayflower ancestry is from Hopkins and Brewster. I know there are others, but I haven’t searched back into some of my other family lines enough yet…. if you like, get in touch with me, and maybe we can share lines, and find where our Nova Scotias overlap!

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