The U.S. military has numerous symbols and traditions. In terms of military headstones, there are plenty of rules that govern memorial type and inscription. Read on to get acquainted with some of the rich traditions and regulations involved with honoring our fallen heroes.
Types of military headstones
If you’ve visited any of our country’s national cemeteries, you probably noticed the variations in headstones and monuments. There are several types of military memorials that correspond to the time in which a fallen servicemember served. They include:
- Pre-WWI headstones: While headstones for Veterans who served before World War I look nearly identical from a distance, they actually feature several distinct variations. Three different sizes of white marble headstones are used to commemorate pre-WWI veterans. Union Army members who died in the Civil War are memorialized with a white granite headstone that features a carved recessed shield. Inscriptions including the soldier’s name, important dates and letters identifying rank and awards are carved into the shield.
- Pre-WWI Confederate headstones: Confederate soldiers who lost their lives could be buried in national cemeteries and were commemorated with military gravestones. By this time, the process of burial had been streamlined and there was no choice of marker available—all veterans were laid to rest with a marble headstone that included the Southern Cross of Honor at the top of the monument.
- Post-WWI memorials: Veterans who served following WWI can only choose one type of military headstone, a white, upright stone made of either granite or marble. Servicemembers can also select military cemetery plaques instead. You have your choice of either bronze or granite plaques, each measuring 24” x 12”. Bronze niche markers measuring 8” x 5” are also available.
Unlike civilian headstones, which can feature lengthy inscriptions, military headstones can only contain certain key pieces of information. They include:
- Dates of birth and death
- Branch of service
- War service (if applicable)
- Rank and specialties
- Awards, including medal of honor insignias, with all other awards in text format
In addition to the textual inscriptions listed above, military memorials can also include a single “emblem of belief” that reflects the veteran’s religious preference. There are currently 98 military grave symbols to choose from, including standard symbols like the Christian cross and Jewish Star of David, as well as the Hammer of Thor and even the Wiccan Pentacle.
For servicemembers who choose burial in a private cemetery, military medallions are available to take the place of a traditional military headstone. Examples include bronze medallions featuring the word “veteran” inscribed at the top and an image of the folded American flag at the center. For veterans who’ve been awarded the medal of honor, a medal of honor medallion can be requested and affixed to their memorial marker to commemorate their service.
If you or a loved one served in the U.S. military, military headstones are available in many forms. Learn more about them by reaching out to Steedley Monument Works today. We’re proud to play a part in commemorating the lives of those who’ve bravely served our country.