How to Install a Military Grave Marker? (A Detailed Guide)

Written by

John Cotton


Logan Miller

how to install a military grave marker

The process of how to install a military grave marker differs depending on the marker type and material.

Now, you may wonder why a lot of thought and intention goes into planning and installing a military tombstone. This is because installing army headstones is a way of giving recognition and credit to the service of deceased veterans of the war.

A government-furnished headstone may be installed in the graves of eligible veterans buried in private cemeteries, national cemeteries, and veterans or military cemeteries. However, the documentation process and applicable fees may differ accordingly.

This read will cover all matters related to installing a veteran grave marker. Read on for more.

Guide to Install a Military Grave Marker

Deceased veterans get free grave markers as long as they are deemed eligible and pass the process of application. Prior to installing a grave marker there are certain documents that the next of kin or authorized representative must prepare.

Below is a list of these requirements and their purpose.

What to prepare

1. The grave marker design


This isn’t a documentary requirement, but prior to the filing of the application, the family must have already decided on the military headstone inscriptions, its make, and its design. This is discussed in detail in the following section.

2. Military Service Records of the deceased veteran

In order to be considered eligible, a veteran must have been honorably discharged from the service. Military service records provide this information.

In the absence of these records, pension records are also considered. Veterans discharged on unconventional circumstances must only prove that there was no dishonorable discharge, through the presentation of muster rolls.

3. Death Certificate or other proof of death


In the absence of a death certificate, alternatively, an obituary, cemetery records, or widow’s pension application may be presented to validate the death of said veteran.

4. Filled-out Application Form


As mentioned, requesting for a government-furnished grave marker goes through a process of application. With this said, a duly filled-out application form must be submitted by the next of kin or authorized representative.

A VA grave marker form is easily downloadable online from the U.S Department of Veteran Affairs website.

5. Documents as required by the cemetery

These documents essentially seek the approval of the cemetery for the headstone installation. Its design must also be approved by the cemetery.

Documents differ depending on the cemetery protocols and fees may also apply differently. Veteran or military cemeteries may waive these fees, but things may be different when it comes to private cemeteries.

All fees incurred in excess of the headstone, especially for private cemetery graves, are personally shouldered by the family of the veteran.

Choosing the Grave Marker Style

As mentioned, prior to the filing of the application, the family must already have an idea of what they want the grave marker to look like. Below are a few things you may want to consider:

1. The structure type


Families can choose from flat markers or upright headstones, the only difference between the two is its line of sight. If you wish to install a flat grave marker however, you’d have to consider the cemetery’s landscape since heavy snowing can cover up the marker especially when the cemetery’s landscape is flat and plain.

If the deceased’s remains are cremated, a bronze niche marker is also available for marking columbaria.

2. The gravestone material

The US Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) indicates choices of marble, granite and bronze as materials if you want to install a cemetery flat marker. For upright markers, on the other hand, granite and marble are the options.

In terms of endurance to the outdoor elements, granite surely wins over marble; marble has erosion tendencies especially when in contact with acidic soil and rain. Granite is not brittle and is more resistant to chipping making it suitable as gravestone material.

3. The gravestone inscription


If you’re wondering what to put on a military headstone, the typical marker would contain, the veterans’s complete name, highest rank, service branch, awards (limited to Purple Heart, Silver and Bronze Stars, Congressional Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross and the Navy or Air Force Cross), and dates of birth and death.

Helpful Tips/FAQs

Do veterans get free grave markers?

Yes, these government-furnished gravestones are provided to the families of eligible deceased veterans free of charge. Other applicable fees are, however, not shouldered by the government.

How do you get a military foot marker on a grave?

As mentioned, there is a standard of eligibility that distinguishes which deceased veterans are allowed to get a military foot marker on their grave. Further, only those eligible veterans who died on or after November 1, 1990, are provided these grave markers.

Eligible veterans who served on or after April 6, 1967 are provided military medallions for grave markers instead. These medallions are then attached to the existing gravestone markers of the deceased veteran.

Can you install your own grave marker?

Military grave marker installation is a private expense of the deceased veteran’s family. Other additional fees may be waived only for the remains buried in veteran cemeteries, however this is not guaranteed.


Matters relating to installing a military grave marker look like a simple circumstance to the layman. However, it actually involves a stringent and careful process in order to ensure that the honor and importance attached to the practice is observed and preserved.

This read on how to install a military grave marker hopes to bring the same message across and at the same time, recognize the immeasurable sacrifice and service of these men and women that contributed to the peace enjoyed today.

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