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.