How a Deceased Veteran Can Receive a Free Headstone, Grave Marker, and Medallion

Taps Our Duty provides families a military wake to honor their deceased loved ones. But we often get questions about the VA benefits available for the funeral. These can include a headstone, marker, and medallions. Also a burial flag and presidential memorial certificate.

To get the latest, we consulted the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) online. Here we offer you an overview of the cost free benefits. But we suggest you consult with the website for a complete description of what's available and how to apply for it. (The criteria below applies to Veterans who did not receive a dishonorable discharge.)

Summary of Requirements to Get Free Memorial Items from the VA

For a Deceased Veteran
The requirements for enlisted personnel who served before September 7, 1980 and officers who served before October 16, 1981: They died on or after November 1, 1990 and their grave is currently marked with a privately purchased headstone OR they were buried in an unmarked grave anywhere in the world. 

For enlisted personnel who served after September 7, 1980 and officers who served after October 16, 1981, there is an additional requirement: either they served a minimum of 24 months of continuous active duty or they died while serving on active duty. 


For National Guard, Reservists, and Family
National Guard members and Reservists may also qualify subject to eligible requirements. Along with spouses and other family members. Refer to the VA link above for details. 


Type of Headstone
The family can choose a headstone or marker and the material it's made of. They can be upright headstones in granite or marble. Also flat markers in granite, marble, or bronze. Or niche markers in bronze.

And you can request a medallion to attach to a headstone you've already purchased. There are three different sizes and the medallions come with a kit to help you attach it. 

Note that if the burial is in a private cemetery, the family will be responsible for the setting fee. This is the cost for the placing of the headstone. The family will also be liable for maintenance and other fees charged by the cemetery. 


The VA provides two types of medallions. One is the bronze medallion for Veterans and service members. The other is the Medal of Honor medallion for those who've received the Medal of Honor. 

Veterans and active-duty service members, National Guard members and Reservists, and Commissioned officers are eligible for medallions.


Consult the Veterans Administration Website for Details and Applications
We found the VA website has everything you need to apply for headstones and medallions. And most funeral directors will also help you with the process. 

In a future article we'll talk about a free burial flag and Presidential Memorial Certificate. 

Your loved one deserves recognition for his or her military service no matter when they served. Or for how long. The VA will help you accomplish that at no cost to you. All you have to do is apply. 

And when it comes to the wake, Taps Our Duty provides a proper military calling hours. We help you honor your loved one with the flags, seal, and memorabilia of his or her branch of the military service. 

We're here to help, just give us a call. You can even include us in your advanced funeral planning. We look forward to answering your questions. And helping you plan a respectful viewing. One that properly honors your loved one's military service. 


Until next time,
Command Master Chief Mark Williamson (Retired)

I served 23 years active duty and saw firsthand the courage, selflessness, and sacrifices our soldiers make. I feel a personal and solemn obligation to offer them the military wake they so rightly deserve. Call me, Mark Williamson, at 315.272.7327 to request a military wake for your loved one. Find out more