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How to Get a Headstone for a Veteran? – A Complete Answer

Written by Everett Bledsoe / Fact checked by Brain Bartell

how to get a headstone for a veteran

Deceased veterans, after a military funeral, will be lowered into the ground at a private or national cemetery. Their resting place is marked by a headstone.

But how to get a headstone for a veteran? We will walk you through everything you need to know in this article. So, do not fret!

How to Get a Military Headstone or VA Grave Marker


1. Check your deceased’s eligibility

Veterans & Active-Duty Service Members

Any member who did not receive a dishonorable discharge or died while on active duty:

Enlisted before Sep. 7, 1980 & Officers before Oct. 16, 1981

(At least one of the following)

  • Died on or after Nov. 1, 1990, and their grave is marked with a headstone that was privately purchased.
  • Buried anywhere in the world, in an unmarked grave.

Enlisted after Sep. 7, 1980 & Officers after Oct. 16, 1981

(At least one of the following)

  • Died on or after Nov. 1, 1990, and their grave is marked with a headstone that was privately purchased.
  • Buried anywhere in the world, in an unmarked grave.

(And at least one of these)

  • Served for at least 24 months in active-duty
  • Died while serving on active duty

National Guard Members & Reservists

National Guard members must tick at least one of these:

  • Was entitled to retirement pay at the time of death or was over 60 years old
  • Served in Federal status for the period of time called to serve

Reservists must tick at least one of these:

  • Was entitled to retirement pay at the time of death or was over 60 years old
  • Was called to active duty for reasons other than training

Spouses & Dependents

Spouses and family members are eligible if they are buried in a national cemetery, state or tribal cemetery for veterans, military post cemetery, or military base cemetery but not if they are buried in a private cemetery.

2. Check if you can request for your deceased

To apply for a headstone and other memorial items for the deceased, you must be one of the following:

  • A family member
  • A personal representative
  • A state or local government employee serving Veterans
  • A legal representative for the deceased’s interment or memorialization

However, if the deceased’s remains:

  • Have not been identified or recovered
  • Were buried at sea
  • Were donated to science
  • Were cremated and scattered

You must be a family member to request a headstone or memorial item.

3. Compile the deceased’s military discharge documents

You can submit the following documents to prove the deceased’s honorable discharge:

  • Transcript of Military Record (aka. DA 1569)
  • Armed Forces Identification Card (aka. DD 2A, 2AF, 2CG, 2MC, 2N, or 2NOAA)
  • Statement of Service (aka. DD13)
  • Discharge Certificate (aka. DD217, AGO 525, 755, 01252, 01502, WD AGO 1502, 1504)
  • Honorable Discharge Certificate (aka. DD 256A, 256F, 256CG, 256MC, or 256N)
  • General Discharge Certificate (aka. DD257A, 257AF, 257CG, 257MC, or 257N)
  • Official Retirement Order or Register (aka. VA 3101)
  • Report of Transfer or Discharge (aka. NOAA Form 56-16)
  • Summary of Record of Active Service (VA Adjudication 545)
  • Reserve Retirement Eligibility Benefits Letter
  • Verification of Service Letter from the VA

4. Fill out the Claim for Standard Government Headstone or Marker

This is also commonly referred to as the VA Form 40 – 1330. Download it here.

5. Send the claim and military discharge documents to the VA

There are three ways you can do this:

(1) Online

  • Open Access VA
  • Navigate to the direct upload tool
  • Upload your VA Form 40 – 1330 and documents

Note: If this is your first time using this tool, sign-up first.

(2) Mail

Mail your VA Form 40 – 1330 and documents to the following address:

Memorial Products Service 41B

Department of Veteran Affairs

5109 Russell Road

Quantico, VA 22134 – 39093

(3) Fax

Fax your VA Form 40 – 1330 and documents to 800-455-7143.

Before you leave, here are several photos of headstones and Veteran grave markers for your reference.

Headstones & Markers for Veterans/Servicemembers


First, let’s start by getting to know the different types of headstones.

  • Upright Headstones

This type of headstone is 42 inches long, 13 inches wide, and 4 inches thick. It is usually made of granite or marble. Therefore, it can be a little heavy; the average weight is 230 pounds.

  • Flat Bronze Marker

This is the top part of the headstone that is fastened to a base. It is 23 inches long and 12 inches wide. There is a 0.75 inches rise and accessories, including nuts, washers, and anchor bolts for it to be attached to a base. A flat bronze marker typically weighs around 18 pounds.

  • Flat Marble or Granite Marker

This is the same as a flat bronze marker, except it is made of marble or granite. So, it is thicker and heavier. The average weight for this type of marker is 130 pounds.

  • Bronze Niche Marker

This marker is 8.5 inches long, 5.5 inches wide, and comes with a ~0.4 inches rise. It has accompanying washers and bolts. As a whole, it weighs about 3 pounds. A bronze niche marker is used to mark columbaria for the interment of cremated remains.

Note: You can choose the type of headstone or marker you want. Specify this in block 15 of the VA Form 40 – 1330.

You must include the following information in the headstone or marker:

  • The deceased’s legal name
  • The deceased’s service branch
  • The deceased’s birth date and death date
  • The section and grave number (Only if this is a state or national cemetery)

In addition, you may want to inscribe:

  • The deceased’s highest attained rank
  • The deceased’s awards and war service
  • The deceased’s special unit identification

This information has to be provided by the deceased’s next of kin or authorized rep like a funeral home director to the cemetery officials.

VA Headstones & Military Grave Markers

Do veterans get free grave markers?

You can request a government headstone or marker from the VA, and they will set it up for you without charge.

Note: These are sometimes referred to as Veterans affairs grave markers and Veterans administration grave markers.

However, if you arrange it to be placed in a private cemetery, you will have to pay for the set-up fees yourself.

If your deceased has an existing, privately purchased headstone or marker, you can apply for up to 2 medallions from the VA. They will be added to indicate that the deceased is a veteran or serviceman and a recipient of the Medal of Honor.

Note: These are in lieu of a traditional government headstone or marker. Meaning, your deceased is entitled to either a headstone or marker furnished by the government or two medallions, but not both.

Furthermore, you may need this guide to know the correct way to install a military grave marker.

Veterans Medallion for Headstones & Markers

  • Bronze Medallions

This type of medallion comes in three sizes: small, medium, and large.

  • Small: 2” W x 1 to 1.5”H x ⅓”D
  • Medium: 2-¾”W X 2-⅞”H X ¼”D
  • Large: 5-⅜”W X 4-¾”H X ½”D

They are inscribed with “VETERAN” on top and the service branch at the bottom. Here is an example:

  • Medal of Honor Medallions

This type of medallion comes in two sizes: medium and large.

Their inscriptions are “MEDAL OF HONOR” on top and service branch at the bottom. Here is an example:

Note: To request the Medal of Honor medallion, you must tick “Other” in block 11 and write “MOH”.


Now that you have reached the end of this article on “How to get a headstone for a veteran?” You should be able to arrange your deceased’s final resting place well. If you still have questions or thoughts on this topic, feel free to leave them in the comments. We will reply as soon as we can. Also, please help us share this article with many other readers!

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