Arlington is The national cemetery in the United States, but it is not the only national cemetery.
On July 17, 1862, Congress enacted legislation which authorized the President to “purchase ‘cemetery grounds’ to be used as national cemeteries ‘for soldiers who shall have died in the service of the country’.” All honorably discharged veterans became eligible, as of 1873, for burial in national cemeteries. Today, the National Cemetery Administration is responsible for thirty-three monument sites and soldiered lots, and more than 2.4 million gravesites located at 120 national cemeteries in 39 states (and Puerto Rico). The mission of the National Cemetery Administration is to “honor Veterans with a final resting place and lasting memorials that commemorate their service to our nation.”
Those eligible for burial in a VA (Department of Veterans Affairs) National Cemetery include:
Eligibility can be confirmed by calling a Veteran’s Benefits Counselor at 1-800-827-1000. Burial benefits include:
“ a gravesite in any of our 120 national cemeteries with available space, opening and closing of the grave, perpetual care, a Government headstone or marker, a grave liner for casketed remains, a burial flag, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate, at no cost to the family. Cremated remains are buried or inurned in national cemeteries in the same manner and with the same honors as casketed remains.”
Requests for burial in a VA national cemetery should be made at the time of need. More specific information on national cemeteries and veteran’s burial and memorial benefits is available at the Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration website, http://www.cem.va.gov/index.htm (from whence all this information came.)
I had always preferred ‘civilian’ graveyards and cemeteries, myself, as much as one can have a preference for this type of thing—the individuality of the statues and headstones appealed to me, the windy roads and old trees… But I have come to appreciate the stately precision of national cemeteries, and the comfort that comes with the honor of a military funeral.