I am always shocked to discover that many Veteran’s don’t realize they may be eligible for a free cemetery memorial through the US Department of Veteran’s Affairs. Well, perhaps I shouldn’t call the memorials “free”; we all know they are not truly “free”. They come with a history of sacrifice more precious than any monetary value. So, “free” isn’t the right word. However, they are provided to the families of qualifying Veteran’s courtesy of the US Department of Veteran’s Affairs.

I often refer to these as “VA Markers” or “Veteran’s Markers”. Several different styles are available to choose from, all having a consistent Veteran’s “look”. Of course, as with any memorial decision, it is important that you research each style and material option prior to choosing one.

Types of VA Memorials Available

I will provide you with a link to the US Department of Veteran’s Affairs website in a moment. But before I do, it is important to understand that each option they provide comes with associated “pro’s”, “con’s” and potential associated cost. My goal is to educate you on these prior to your completing the application process. As you know, an informed decision is always a better decision!

Granite Veteran’s Memorials

Granite is my absolute, positively most preferred material for VA markers. Memorial Grade Granite is an incredibly strong cemetery memorial material that experiences minimal chemical and mechanical weathering.

The VA provides gray granite memorials in both an upright and a flat option, with the flat option being the most popular.

Pro’s: Memorial grade granite experiences minimal weathering

Con’s: Material may stain if installed underneath a tree

Associated costs: The only additional expense a family typically has to incur when they get a granite VA memorial is the cost of professional installation. Many families think the VA pays for installation, and that is simply not true. It is up to the family to have the memorial installed.

It is important to have the memorial professionally installed to ensure that it doesn’t sink or lean. The cost to install a flat VA marker is less, of course, than the cost of installing an upright VA memorial.

Bronze Veteran’s Memorials

Bronze is an alloy of copper and tin with a few traces of other metals mixed in there. While bronze is very pretty, it has two negative aspects you need to be aware of.

First of all, bronze is precious metal that needs to be secured to a strong foundation to prevent theft. Unfortunately, there are crazy people out there who will steal it. I wish this wasn’t the case but, unfortunately, it is.

Secondly, bronze will oxidize over time. The VA standardly sends bronze plaques with a dark brown background that provides beautiful contrast against the light bronze letters and border. However, over time the dark brown will become a light brown and the letters and border will lose their luster.

Associated costs: When a family gets a bronze marker the family may incur a few expenses. Of course, you are going to need to mount the VA marker. Mounting the marker takes tools, knowledge and time. We recommend having this professionally done. Then, of course, you are going to need to have it installed.

It is important to have the memorial professionally installed to ensure it doesn’t sink or lean.

Bronze Marker Oxidization

In the photo below you can see a bronze VA plaque that is beginning to oxidize.

Bronze Veteran's Memorial that has started the oxidization process.
Bronze VA memorial that has started the oxidization process.

You can compare the photo above of a more oxidized VA marker to the one below that has not started oxidizing.

The photo below is my grandfather’s VA marker. I absolutely adored this man and wish I had had more time with him. He died when I was four, so I do not recall him telling me any stories from his service in WWII. However, I do know that I inherited a love for photography from him! He had taken a camera with him (back then cameras were SO different!) and documented his war time service.

My grandfather has a bronze VA marker mounted to ebony mist granite. It has been there since 1986 and still looks pretty good! However, over time, the marker will oxidize and lose it’s luster. When this occurs my family can choose to leave it in it’s oxidized state, or we can contract to have it refinished.

Bronze VA marker that has not become oxidized

Marble Veteran’s Memorials

Marble is a form of limestone, which is softer than granite. You will primarily see it in the older section of the cemetery, as it was a preferred memorial material “way back when” because it was easier to quarry and cut than granite. However, today we have the necessary tools to quarry granite, which is stronger and preferred in modern memorialization.

Because older Veteran’s memorials in the National cemeteries started as marble, the VA has chosen to maintain uniformity and require all new and future memorials to be marble. This does make the National cemeteries especially beautiful. However, the National cemeteries have programs to protect the stones from mechanical and chemical weathering. Most cemeteries that are not National cemeteries do not have these such programs.

For that reason, if the VA memorial is not going to a National cemetery, I do not recommend marble.

Pro: Marble is beautiful

Con’s: Marble is more brittle than granite and susceptible to chemical and mechanical weathering. It is also more susceptible to chipping and cracking in the cemetery.

Associated costs: The only additional expense a family typically has to incur when they get a marble VA memorial is the cost of professional installation. Many families think the VA pays for installation, and that is simply not true. It is up to the family to have the memorial installed.

It is important to have the memorial professionally installed to ensure that it doesn’t sink or lean. The cost to install a flat VA marker is less, of course, than the cost of installing an upright VA memorial.

Ordering a VA Memorial

To order a Veteran’s Memorial follow this link to the US Department of Veteran’s Affairs website. Here you can read more about the types of markers they provide, eligibility requirements and application procedures.

The VA is a great resource for the family of a Veteran who has passed away. However, eligibility requirements do exist and not all Veterans are eligible. If your Veteran does not qualify for a VA memorial, I suggest checking out this blog post for other financial resources you might consider.

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