Psychology of Memorialization
Famous People Memorialized
Small Town Memorials
The Last Wish
Memorializing a Veteran
Famous Memorial Buildings
How to Cope with the Death of a Pet
Memorializing a Veteran
Rembering the Public's Grief
The death of any United States military veteran brings about two types of mourning. First, there is the private grief of very close friends and family. Then there is the public's display of appreciation for having devoted a life to the defense of the country. Appropriately memorializing a veteran requires attention to both types of respects, and there are plenty of options for doing this. Below are a few ideas:
Capturing family life:
The United States military offers many military death benefits to a soldier or Veteran who is active, or has been honarbly discharged from service. To begin with, they can receive a free grave marker and free burial in a national cemetery for all honorably discharged veterans who served at least two years. Accepting this offer can save thousands of dollars in burial expense for families, but that savings has an "opportunity cost" of its own that is worth considering. In exchange for the free savings and burial, the most personal parts of a burial may be lost. Rather than resting peacefully underneath a specially chosen, meaningful tree, for example, a veteran buried in a national cemetery will be assigned to a, more or less random, grave location after his or her death. In fact, while non-veteran spouses are entitled to veteran burial benefits, couples are not guaranteed to have adjacent graves in national cemeteries. Likewise, non-veteran siblings and children of veterans are not allowed in national cemeteries. So, if balancing family and military was an important part of the life of a veteran, the best option may not be to accept the military's offer. Many private cemeteries offer discounts on plots sold to veterans (although sometimes this is a ploy aimed at selling several plots at once), and anyone seeking to memorialize a veteran would be wise to investigate that option if burial in a national cemetery is not an optimum choice. The above should not be construed as a criticism of a national cemetery burial (particularly for veterans whose entire lives were spent in military service), rather as a consideration. Burial in national cemetery, while a grand gesture, is not necessarily an ideal memorial for every American veteran.
The same can be said of the free headstone offered by the military. Veteran grave markers have limited space (or in some cases no space) for special emblems and epitaph lettering, and, for many veterans, that is not ideal. In recent years, the military has begun offering limited reimbursement for families who want a more specialized marker than the one the military provides. Veterans and their families are encouraged to check with the U.S. Veterans Administration for more information about this program.
Capturing public life:
For those wanting a more personal memorial than the military provides with its national cemeteries and free grave marker program, there are plenty of opportunities for mourners to pay tribute to a veteran's military life even if the burial is in a private cemetery with a grave marker that emphasizes the person's civilian life.
Many cities, for example, build public structures as on-going tributes to the veterans of the local area. For a small fee (usually of around $50 - $100), a family can typically have a commemorative brick in the structure engraved with the veteran's name, rank and any other relevant military data. And, of course, there is always the option of including a military medallion on a privately made headstone. Many, if not most, monument dealers can include a military insignia onto a personalized headstone for little or no additional costs.
The most important thing to keep in mind when memorializing a veteran is to try to balance the military aspect of the memorial to match the importance the military played in a person's life. The memorial for an 80 year-old- veteran who served three years early in his adult life will usually be much different from that of a career officer who served for 35 years or a soldier who lost his life or was severely wounded in battle.