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How to Install a Military Grave Marker? – Step by Step Guide

Written by Everett Bledsoe / Fact checked by Brain Bartell

how to install a military grave marker

To honor soldiers, a military grave marker will be set up as part of funeral arrangements. Usually, it will be an upright grave marker or a flat marker. These are made of bronze, granite, or marble.

However, apart from choosing the type and material, there are other things that you need to do when putting up a military grave marker. Let us take you through how to install a military grave marker, including how to prepare, order, and prop it permanently. Read on!


In the preparation stages, you should determine the type of grave marker and the material that it is made up of. There are upright grave markers called headstones, standing vertically at the head of the grave.

Alternatively, there are shorter flat grave markers that level with the ground or are just several inches higher. Many family plots use flat grave markers. These are sometimes also used to signal the feet of graves that already have headstones. But flat markers are commonly used on their own at the head of a grave as well.

What to Consider Before Choosing a Marker Style and Material


Cemetery Rules

While it would be lovely if this is entirely up to your discretion, most of the time, it is not. You will have to check with the cemetery for any rules about marker styles and materials. You might be required to have a concrete slab serving as a base, for instance. Policies vary, so you must contact the cemetery for detailed guidance.

Environmental Conditions

The material of the marker will endure impacts from environmental elements. Thus, it is important that you take the setting into consideration. Marble, for example, is prone to erode over time if it encounters acidic soil and acid rain.

Do not be afraid to seek advice from the funeral director or cemetery personnel. They have the knowledge and experience to give you good suggestions, and are typically more than happy to help.

Once you know the type and material of the marker, you can continue to proceed by preparing the inscriptions. A standard military grave marker should have the following:

  • Emblem of Belief
  • Full Legal Name
  • Highest Rank Attained
  • Service Branch
  • Awards
  • Birth Date
  • Death Date

However, only certain awards may appear as inscriptions, such as the Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross, Air Force Cross, Congressional Medal of Honor, Purple Heart, Silver Star, and Bronze Star. You can send a request to add additional details like a nickname, other credentials, and special designations.


If you are handling funeral arrangements by yourself, after preparations, you can move onto the next step of the marker application process: ordering the marker.

The VA will provide you with the military grave marker. You will have to send your application through mail or fax. There should be an accompanying copy of your veteran’s discharge confirmation papers as well. Regarding this, one critical thing to note is that you must not send the original papers because you cannot get them back.

You can send in an application if you are the dependent’s next-of-kin, an authorized representative on behalf of the decedent, or an authorized representative on behalf of the dependent’s next-of-kin. If you are none of the above, you will have to provide a written statement that shows you have been authorized by the dependent or next-of-kin..

If you already have a private headstone, you can still request the VA for a flat marker, and position it at the foot of the grave. Otherwise, the VA can offer a medallion, which functions as a military grave marker symbol.

If the military veteran that you are installing a military grave marker for is buried in the national cemetery or the state veteran cemetery, you can rely on the personnel at the cemetery to go through the ordering process for you. Just be ready to give them information!

How to Install a Military Grave Marker


In the final step, you set up the military grave marker. Here, you will have to learn how to set a headstone or how to install a flat grave marker, depending on the type that you have chosen.

Headstone Installation

This type of installation is for upright, vertically-standing markers. To begin, determine the military headstone placement. Then, gather these four materials: a shovel, tape measure, level, and bag of sand.

Step 1: Measure the size of the grave marker with a tape measure and compare it to where you will install the headstone. But when you actually set it, add an inch to both sides. So, for example, if your marker is 24 inches by 12 inches, its outline will be 26 inches by 14 inches.

Step 2: Dig the grave marker’s outline with a shovel. Next, empty the dirt. The dug depth should be roughly the same as the thickness of the grave marker.

Step 3: Place your marker into the hole and use the level that you brought to guarantee that the marker lays neatly. If needed, you can use sand to level it out.

Footstone Installation

Footstone installation uses flat grave markers that typically include a concrete base. For this, you will need a shovel, hole digger, tape measure, level, hammer, water, four steel bars about 30 inches length-wise, steel mesh, some wire fasteners, prepared concrete, and a barrel to mix.

Step 1: Just as you would with installing headstones, start by measuring the size of the marker on the intended placement area, and add an inch on the left and right side.

Step 2: Dig the outline of the marker, empty the dirt, and see to it that the dugged depth is a bit deeper, about four to six inches, than the thickness of the marker.

Step 3: Dig two piers with the hole digger on the outer ends and place in it two steel bars. Work smartly and use a hammer to set them in place.

Step 4: In the bottom, lay out the steel meshes and use wire fasteners to link the meshes to the steel bars.

Step 5: Prepare the concrete in the mixing container. Then, pour what you have prepared into the ground, leaving space for the grave marker to flush from the top later.

Step 6: Smooth out the wet concrete surface with a level. The more meticulous you are in this step, the nicer your marker will look. Wait for the concrete to dry in one to two days.

Step 7: After the concrete dries, set the marker in.


By now, you should know how to install a military grave marker. You are also aware of the details around this process, so you should be good too! Feel free to share your installation experience in the comments. I look forward to hearing from you!

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