Since May of 1864, Arlington National Cemetery has served as the nation's premier military cemetery and shrine honoring those men and women who served in the Armed Forces. Today, the National Cemetery is involved with the burial of military casualties from the Iraqi and Afghanistan war fronts, as well as World War II veterans. Overall, daily funerals average about 25 each workday.
The following information will assist you in making arrangements for applying for burial or inurnment at Arlington National Cemetery:
Upon the demise of the veteran or veteran's spouse, the surviving spouse or personal representative should contact a local funeral home to arrange for any desired services in the hometown. While the surviving spouse or personal representative is at the funeral home, the funeral director should contact the Interment Office at Arlington National Cemetery to arrange for the interment service. Before scheduling the service, the cemetery staff will need to determine the eligibility of the deceased (see interment eligibility criteria below). Upon verification of eligibility, the cemetery staff will schedule the interment. Any documents requested by the cemetery staff to confirm eligibility can be faxed to the cemetery on telephone number.
Arranging for an inurnment service is the same as for arranging for an interment (ground burial) service except that the surviving spouse or personal representative may telephone the Interment Office to arrange for the service. The urn containing the cremated remains must be tightly sealed and hand carried by the family on the day of the service or delivered by a local funeral home up to three working days prior to the service. The cemetery will not accept cremated remains sent via US Postal Services or common carrier.
Important: Partial (or split) remains will not be accepted for burial, and in all cases, cremated remains interred or inurned at Arlington National Cemetery must be delivered with a Certificate of Cremation or a Death Certificate.
Columbarium niches are designed to accommodate two receptacles, e.g., for a veteran and eligible spouse. The niche dimensions are 13" in height, 10" in width, and 18" in length. Accordingly, it is important that these dimensions are considered when purchasing an urn (receptacle). If a second inurnment is anticipated, both receptacles must fit within these dimensions.
When the caisson is being provided to transport cremated remains, for ground burial or the Columbarium, the single receptacle, in addition to a folded American flag, must fit within a confined area measuring 11" in height, 13" in width, and 16" in length. Note: For the purpose of the ceremony and placement on the caisson, the receptacle should utilize no more than half of the total space available.
There are no fees or costs for an interment or inurnment. The only cost to the estate of the deceased is for a private monument if the next-of-kin should elect to have a private monument (depending on the availability of gravesites in sections of the cemetery where private monuments are permitted) erected in lieu of using the government provided headstone or for a vault if the next-of-kin should elect to provide for an outside container other than the graveliner provided by the government. Note: The availability of gravesites in the older sections will be exhausted in the near future.
All costs associated with preparation of the remains, casket or urn, and shipping of the remains to the Washington, DC area are at the expense of the estate unless the deceased is currently on active duty with a branch of the Armed Forces. Please check with your local VA office and Social Security office to determine if any benefits are available from either or both agencies.
Gravesites/niches are assigned the afternoon on the day before the interment service. Where a previous interment/inurnment has occurred. The next available grave or niche is assigned for the interment or inurnment. Assignment of graves and niches are without regard to military rank, race, color, creed, or gender of the qualifying service member. At the time of demise, family may request a burial location close to other family members interred or inurned within the cemetery, however limited space may prevent the cemetery from accommodating such requests.
Types of Military Funerals
Standard Honors: Standard graveside honors can be provided enlisted service members by the appropriate branch of service at Arlington National Cemetery. These honors include:
Additionally, some branches of the armed services will use the caisson for service members who have reached the top NCO grade.
The cemetery staff will make arrangements for military honors when requested by the next of kin or representative. A military chaplain may also be requested.
Full-honors Funerals: In addition to the standard military honors, certain deceased military veterans may also receive:
Note: In the past "Full-honors Funerals" were provided to officers and senior enlisted soldiers only. However, the Army recently changed its policy at Arlington National Cemetery. The new policy provides these services to any soldier (officer or enlisted) killed as a result of the following:
Burial flags are provided by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs at no cost. Most veterans are entitled to burial flags. Reservists entitled to retired pay are also eligible. Only one burial flag may be provided per veteran. They are provided as a matter of course at Arlington National Cemetery and at National, state or post cemeteries. For private funerals, flags may be obtained from any VA regional office and most U.S. Post Offices by completing VA Form 2008, Application for United States Flag for Burial Purposes, and submitting it with a copy of the veteran's discharge papers at any of those locations.
Additionally, officers buried in Arlington Cemetery may have the use of the caisson, if available. Officers in the rank of colonel and above in the Army and the Marine Corps may be provided a caparisoned (riderless) horse, if available. General officers may receive a cannon salute (17 guns for a four-star general, 15 for a three-star, 13 for a two-star, 11 for a one-star), if available. Each service has variations to these funeral honors.
The president of the United States is entitled to a 21-gun salute, while other high state officials receive 19 guns.
Armed Forces Honors: The honors are the same as a full-honors funeral, except that escort platoons from each of the services participate. These funerals are reserved for the president of the United States (as commander-in-chief), secretary of defense, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or officers granted multiple-service command.
Military spouses and family members: When a spouse or other dependent of a current or former member of the Armed Forces is buried at Arlington, the military service in which the primary party served will provide a casket team and a chaplain. No other military honors will be rendered unless the spouse served in the military.
Sequence of Events for an Army Honors Funeral At Arlington National Cemetery
Most veterans are eligible for a burial flag. Only one burial flag may be provided per veteran. Requests for a burial flag must be made at the time of need. Burial flags may be obtained from VA regional offices and most U.S. post offices by completing VA Form 21-2008, Application for United States Flag for Burial Purposes, and submitting it with a copy of the veteran's discharge papers at either of the locations.
Government Headstone/Niche Cover - The government will provide at no cost to the estate of the deceased an upright, white marble headstone or white niche cover. The cemetery staff at Arlington will place the order, which goes to the National Cemetery Administration, part of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The order for the headstone or niche cover will include the appropriate inscription and choice of faith emblems.
While the next-of-kin does not order the government headstone/niche cover for placement in Arlington National Cemetery, he or she can check on the status of the order by calling Arlington's Administration Building, 1-703-607-8577, between 7:45 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.
Private Monument - Certain sections of the cemetery were designated in 1947 where private monuments could be placed. Private monuments that were placed in the cemetery were subject to review and approval prior to installation. As of April 1, 2001, gravesites in these older private-monument sections are no longer available.
Graveliners are the outside concrete containers in which caskets are placed. The government will provide a graveliner for an initial casketed interment at no cost. If the previous interment was without a graveliner or vault and the subsequent interment is on top of the previous interment, the government will not provide a graveliner. Graveliners are used by the government to reduce the amount of sinkage of the grave subsequent to the interment.
The following eligibility requirements for ground burial in Arlington National Cemetery. The last period of active duty of former members of the Armed Forces must have ended honorably. Interment may be casketed or cremated remains.
The following persons are eligible for inurnment in the Columbarium. The last period of active duty (other than for training) of former members of the Armed Forces must have ended honorably.
Any veteran who is eligible for interment (ground burial) and their dependent(s) may have their cremated remains placed in a designated unmarked area of the cemetery. Family members must be placed in this area once one member has had their remains placed here. The ashes must be in a biodegradable container or placed without container directly into the ground.
Application for an Exception to the Interment/Inurnment Policy: The purpose for an Exception to the Interment/Inurnment Policy is to permit those who are not otherwise eligible under current policies to ask for special consideration. Please note, exceptions are only approved for those requestors whose facts merit extraordinary circumstances and whose approval will not ordinarily displace an otherwise eligible Veteran.
A letter requesting an exception to policy should be submitted to the Superintendent, Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA 22211. A request for an exception to policy will not be considered until the death of the individual. Letters may be faxed to the Superintendent on telephone number (703) 607-8583. The letter should contain the following information:
Decisions generally provided within 24 to 48 hours after receipt of the request.
The estate of the deceased (or next-of-kin/personal representative) is responsible for providing the appropriate documentation to verify the veteran's eligibility for interment or for inurnment. The cemetery staff may offer assistance in verifying the veteran's eligibility. However, the veteran or their spouse must be deceased prior to the cemetery staff assisting with the verification. Verification by the cemetery staff may take up to three workdays.
Veterans who desire copies of their military records should write to: National Personnel Records Center, Attention: Military Personnel Records, 1 Reserve Way, St Louis, Missouri 63132. Please allow six to eight months for a response from the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC).
Some example documents for establishing eligibility are: DD Form 214 (all branches starting in the 1950's); WD AGO Form 53, 53-55, or 53-98 for Army; NAVPERS Form 553 for Navy; and NAVMC Form 553 for the Marines during the 1940's (Both front and back of the forms are needed). A Record of Service provided by the NPRC is also acceptable. The preceding represents a partial listing of forms used during the 1940's. Some of the preceding documents do not describe the character of service. A copy of the discharge certificate which describes the character of service as "honorable" or "under honorable conditions" will meet this requirement.
Any member of the Uniformed Services who dies while on active duty (other than for training) will generally have their affairs processed by a casualty assistance officer from their respective branch of service. An active duty statement from the commanding officer will be required for verification of eligibility.