Need to Know For a Burial in a Military Cemetery

Do you imagine a great big honorable ceremony with guns blasting off and trumpets playing at a veteran’s funeral? There can be high costs associated with such an extravagant ceremony, but isn’t that all going to be paid for by the VA?

You will receive a military flag for your service. Your spouse and children can be buried in a military cemetery, However not all cost of funerals are covered for military funerals. Most vets that want to be buried at Arlington cemetery will need to be cremated. If you would like taps played at funeral this is typically done by local legion chapters.

Let’s have a look at what it looks like for a veteran to be buried in a military cemetery.

Is a Veteran’s Funeral Paid for by the VA?

There are many benefits available to veterans to assist with a vet’s going home ceremony. What specific benefits are going available for each veteran depends upon a variety of factors. These financial benefits can be things from the government from both the federal and state level, as well as some county and local organizations that can help.

Some of the media can have false info about this process, many people might think their funeral is completely paid for by the government but that’s not true.

It’s important to know benefits are available to a veteran and their spouse to help this process go more smoothly. Every veteran gets one flag from the government free of charge for their ceremony.

What Size is a Military Flag?

The flag signifies a veteran’s service for his country. The funeral home gets the flag for you, they order it for you as a vet. It’s either folded in a triangle and sat next to your casket or urn, draped over the end of the casket, or draped over the full casket.

Nothing is to be set on the flag at any time, it’s very sacred. The flag is presented to your spouse, or if your spouse has already passed it’s given to your oldest child. If the family wants someone else to receive it the oldest child has to decide who gets it.

The funeral home can obtain one flag per vet as well as a presidential certificate. The funeral home will order as many certificates as you need and these are signed by the President.

The flag itself is 5ft wide by 9.5 feet long and there are specific ways it should be placed to avoid damage:

  • Closed Casket – It should be draped over the entire length of the casket with the blue field facing the front.
  • Half Opened Casket – It should be folded in three layers so that it covers the closed half of the casket.
  • Open Casket -The flag should be completely folded in a triangular shape and placed in the center of the top of the casket.

Can a Veteran’s Spouse be Buried With Them?

The spouse and the dependent children may be buried in the national cemetery as well. An adult child may be able to be buried there also if they are not married and are still in a situation where they are dependent on the veteran.

The national cemetery may save space for the spouse on the cemetery, or they may bury them one on top of the other. The first to die is buried at a lower depth then the second is placed higher. This also applies to cremation.

There is ground space for cremated remains at some national cemeteries. Some national cemeteries also have columbarium’s with spaces for cremated remains to go.

To find out more about benefits for military spouses, check out our What Are Death Benefits article.

How Can a Veteran be Buried At Arlington National Cemetery?

Many people want to know how they can be buried at Arlington. On average they do 27-30 funerals per day and in 23 years they will be at max capacity.

They are currently working on ways to extend the cemetery, so for now they have installed columbarium’s to place urns for cremation. The only way that any vet can go to Arlington is to be cremated at this time.

Ground burial is only for decorated veterans or active duty deaths or career military that have awards such as purple heart or bronze star, and that is for when they make more space available. If you want an urn there plan 4 months ahead so they have a slot ready.

When Will Taps be Played at the Funeral?

It’s customary to play Taps at a military funeral. Taps is traditional military music that is also played on military bases to signal lights out.

It was put into practice when a corporal serving under captain John c Tidball died and Tidball wanted to bury him with full military honors. Tidball was not allowed to fire the 3 salutes during the funeral, so as a substitute he had Taps played. In 1891 it became a standard feature at all military funerals.

Taps is usually played toward the end of a military funeral, right before the benediction and everyone leaves. These days a 21 salute can also be a feature at the ceremony.

At national cemeteries shell casings after the 21-salute volley are not able to be given to the family. This is because at one ceremony a grandson of a vet took one of the shells that had not gone off yet and it later fired and hurt him badly.

If you’d like the firing of the 21 salute you can request the funeral home to contact the American Legion or other local organizations. They can request if one can be present for the service, but they may not always be available. There are not a lot of available people active in these organizations that will be able to do it in many areas.

How Much Does It Cost To Be Buried in a Military Cemetery?

Being buried at a national cemetery is a huge benefit for veterans and a huge cost saver. You do not have to pay for the grave space, the opening and closing of the grave, the vault company, or the vault itself. You do not have to pay for the headstone if it’s a standard headstone.

You can apply for a veteran’s headstone that comes in a variety of shapes and materials such as marble and granite. There are also bronze markers that are 2 feet wide and attached to the backside of the granite headstone. The only cost is for attaching or installing it into the ground, the cost of the bronze markers is not covered by the government.

Many people believe that the Department of Veterans Affairs will pay for a big fancy funeral, but that’s not always the case. A funeral including a burial usually costs about $11,000 and $7000 for cremation. Then transportation, embalming the body, and wake also costs money. The VA will pay for some of the funeral costs but not all of them.

They have a burial allowance for eligible veterans that do not have a dishonorable discharge that can be between $1000 – $2,000 depending on many different factors. There are also county benefits and federal benefits available.

The county benefits are set by your county and every state and county will be different. Some may have a $100 benefit or some may have a $400 benefit depending on your county.

There also may be requirements that you have to meet to be eligible. Some places require you to have served during a war or a have certain financial need.

You can request the application paperwork from your local veteran’s office. You don’t have to wait for the funeral home to do this you can do this on your own.

The federal government has some benefits for some veterans as well. If you were a career vet or you are disabled there are some extra benefits you can apply for. You can simply request a federal benefit form and turn it in with your death certificate, discharge paper, and some other items that are listed on the form.

The federal benefit will tell you all the documents you need and where to send them. Federal forms are filled already out if someone dies in a VA home. If someone dies in a VA home the family can be reimbursed for the removal charge and the hearse charge and other things associated with relocating the veteran.

It’s a good idea to go ahead and send it instead of not sending it because there may be other benefits that you didn’t know you were eligible for so you should always fill it out and you may be surprised. With these types of benefits available from the government, you might still end up spending a few thousand dollars on the funeral depending on how extravagant you want the ceremony to be.

What Documents Do I Need to be Buried in a National Cemetery?

In order to be buried in a national cemetery, you need to have a death certificate as well as a copy of your DD214 discharge papers. You just need to show that you were honorably discharged and that you actually served in the branch you were in. You can apply for a free death certificate as a veteran.

If you don’t have your DD214, sometimes a wall certificate or a pocket card can be used to contact the military and get your discharge papers. The funeral home can try to look for it in the national archives, but due to the fire in 1973, they lost most of the files that were placed there before 1965.

If they don’t have the record you can go to your country clerk and see if they have it there or check with other local organizations. If the veteran ever got service from a VA hospital then that paperwork could be used, or the VA hospital may actually have the discharge paperwork.

It’s important to stay aware of current veterans’ benefits in your state as well as the federal government’s benefits. Things are always changing and there are always new benefits being added. Keep your family informed on what’s available so they know what to do when the time comes.

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Readinform is a Wisconsin based writer for funerals explained. They have come to understand the struggles of death and loss. Through life experience they have gathered the knowledge to help others and answer questions related to the funeral industry. When not writing readyinform focuses on learning new things and exploring the differences society offers.

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