Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery wreath laying.

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, Arlington National Cemetery conducts between 27 and 30 services each weekday and between 6 and 8 services on Saturday.

The following information will assist you in making arrangements for applying for burial or inurnment at Arlington National Cemetery:

Scheduling a Funeral

Upon the death of the veteran or veteran's spouse, the Primary Next of Kin or Person Authorized to Direct Disposition should contact a local funeral home to arrange for any desired services in the hometown. The  PNOK, PADD or the funeral director should telephone the Arlington National Cemetery's customer service center at 1-877-907-8585 to arrange for the interment/inurnment service.

The process to schedule a burial at Arlington National Cemetery can be complex and we handle each family's request individually with the utmost care and professionalism. Each request is unique and the length of time it takes for scheduling is typically several weeks to several months and depends on many factors, including the family's ability to provide all documents to verify eligibility, any special requests, requests for full military honors (which can take take longer to schedule than standard military honors because of additional military resources such as escorts and the caisson), requests for one of the chapels located on Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, etc.

When the family or funeral home makes the first call to the customer service center, they are given a case number for tracking purposes and are asked to fax or e-mail all required documents for review. The cemetery staff will need to establish and confirm the service member is eligible for burial at Arlington. We recommend that you have all of the required documentation together before you call the cemetery to schedule the service. Any documents requested by the cemetery staff can be faxed to the cemetery at telephone number (571) 256-3334 or e-mailed to arlingtoncemetery.isb@mail.mil and must include the case number provided by the customer service center. Please Note: Arlington National Cemetery will not respond to other inquiries via this email box.

The required documents are the DD214 (or service equivalent) to establish eligibility for the eligible service member, death certificate, and cremation certificate, if applicable. It is the family's responsibility to provide the service member's eligibility documents. A service will not be scheduled until all required documents are received.

Families will be required to validate that an urn contains 100 percent of the decedent's remains received from the crematorium or funeral home before Arlington National Cemetery conducts the burial service.

Interment/Inurnment Costs

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.

Assignment of Gravesites/Niches

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.

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Military Honors

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:

  • A casket team
  • A firing party
  • A bugler

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:

  • An escort platoon (size varies according to the rank of the deceased)
  • A military band
  • A caisson
  • A colors team

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 that all service members who die from wounds received as a result of enemy action and are being interred, inurned, or memorialized at Arlington National Cemetery, are eligible to receive full military honors.

Additionally, officers and service members who have reached the senior Non-Commissioned Officer rank (pay grade of E-9) 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

  • The caisson or  funeral coach  arrives at gravesite, military members present arms (renders a salute). Casket team secures the casket, non-commissioned officer-in-charge (NCOIC), officer-in-charge (OIC), and chaplain salute.
  • Chaplain leads the way to gravesite, followed by casket team.
  • Casket team sets down the casket and secures the flag.
  • The NCOIC/OIC ensures the flag is stretched out and level, and centered over the casket.
  • The family is seated.
  • NCOIC/OIC backs away and the chaplain, military or civilian, will perform the service.
  • At conclusion of interment service and before benediction, a cannon salute is fired for those eligible (i.e., general officers).
  • Chaplain concludes his service and backs away, NCOIC/OIC steps up to the casket.
  • The cemetery representative will ask all family members to rise for honors.
  • The NCOIC/OIC presents arms to initiate the rifle volley.
  • Rifle volley complete; bugler plays "Taps."
  • Family will be asked to be seated.
  • Casket team leader starts to fold the flag.
  • Flag fold complete, and the flag is passed to the NCOIC, OIC.
  • Casket team leaves gravesite.
  • The flag is presented to the next of kin.
  • For veterans of the Army, Air Force, Navy and Coast Guard, an Arlington Lady presents  cards of condolence to the next of kin on behalf of their service chief and the lady herself.
  • Chaplain/family clergy extend condolences.
  • Cemetery representative announces that the service is concluded.

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Burial Flags

Burial flags used for military honors at Arlington National Cemetery measure 5' x 9 ½'. Most funeral homes will obtain the U.S. Flag on behalf of the veteran's family. Requests for a burial flag must be made at the time of need (time of death). Burial flags may be obtained from VA regional offices and most U.S. post offices by completing VA Form 27-2008, 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. You can also download the Application for United States Flag for Burial Purposes form online from the Department of Veterans Affairs website.

Grave Markers/Niche Covers

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.

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Graveliners

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.

Ground Burial Eligibility

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.

  • Active duty members of the armed forces, their spouses, minor children, or dependent adult children
  • Retired members of the armed forces, their spouses, minor children, or dependent adult children
  • Recipients of the following medals
    • Medal of Honor
    • Distinguished Service Cross
    • Navy Cross
    • Air Force Cross
    • Distinguished Service Medal
    • Silver Star
    • Purple Heart
  • Any former POW with an honorable discharge and who died after November 30, 1993

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Eligibility for Inurnment in the Columbarium

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.

  • Active duty members and honorably discharged veterans, their spouses, minor children, and dependent adult children
  • Members of a Reserve Component, National Guard, or Air National Guard who die while on active duty for training or full-time service as well as their spouses,minor children and dependent adult children
  • Reserve or National Guard members with at least one day of active duty (other than for training) and who are qualified to collect retired pay
  • Anyone who is eligible for ground burial

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Eligibility for Interment of Cremated Remains in Unmarked Area

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:

  1. Name of the deceased.
  2. Reason(s) why the deceased should be favorably considered for an exception to policy. All relevant information regarding military service or service to the nation should be included. All documentation of service should be included (i.e., DD Form 214, award certificates, orders, etc.)
  3. If interment is to be in the same grave as someone already interred, provide the full name of the previously interred person and the section/grave number where interred, if known. Include the relationship of the deceased to the previously interred person.
  4. Include a point of contact and both a daytime and evening telephone number for questions concerning additional information and notification purposes.
  5. Family member or personal representative will read and sign the public disclosure form and forward it with the exception request. Copies of the public disclosure form are available at the Administration Building or you may telephone for a copy of the form on telephone numbers (703) 607-8585.

Decisions generally provided within 24 to 48 hours after receipt of the request.

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Burden of Proof in Establishing Eligibility

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.

Active Duty Deaths

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.

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