A veteran is defined by any person that has served their country in a time of war. There are many, many, veterans that have given up their lives for the sake of our country. The very least we can do is honor them and offer them services, whether it be in life or death. The list of issues that veterans are susceptible to is growing. Poverty, homelessness, lack of substantial health care are just a few issues, among others. There are approximately 21.8 billion veterans currently navigating post service life.
For those that have given the ultimate sacrifice, it is our duty to care for them in death. They have taken extraordinary measures for us to be safe and we should return the favor by ensuring that their body will be taken care of how they wanted them to be.
All veterans have the legal right to be buried in a national cemetery. Unless specified, their headstone is made of marble or granite. No charges will be incurred when opening or closing the grave, a vault or liner, or setting the marker in a national cemetery. Additionally, markers are made available, with options to add personal effects. In the standard setting, the inscriptions show the veteran’s name, branch of service, year of birth, year of death, but often includes an emblem of belief, rank, and any decorations earned. At an additional cost, extra items can be included like nicknames and terms of endearment, however they have to be approved by the VA.
A United States flag is provided, during the burial at no cost. The flag is used to drape the casket and for a cremation it will accompany the urn of a deceased Veteran who had served honorably in the U.S. Armed Forces. This is done to honor all the memories of the Veteran’s military service to his or her country. For veterans who had dishonorably discharged the VA will furnish a burial flag for memorialization.
When the VA offers the flag for the burial of a veteran or a service member, the next of kin is given the flag by the department as a keepsake. This is after it has been used in the burial. When there is no next of kin then a close friend of the deceased will be given the flag but only if they make a request for it. Families of veterans can donate the flags, if they so choose.
There is an option to be buried at sea, which is an option for all veterans and close dependents. The option is offered by the US Coast Guard and the Navy. A flag must be there and if it was supplied by the family, it will be returned to them, but if supplied by the Navy it will not be given to the family. The only challenge with the sea burial is that it’s done at the convenience of the military personnel and the family might not have a chance to witness the burial.
In the United States we are constantly revising to ensure that our loved ones (and their families!) are receiving the most honorable burial as well as making sure that the process is respectful. It is not a perfect system, but it is an answer to assuage the grief that permeates a death.