ANC masthead: Flag Fading into tree image
Arlington National Cemetery
BUTTON: ANC home BUTTON: Visitor Information BUTTON: Funeral information BUTTON: Ceremonies BUTTON: Historical Information BUTTON: Photo Gallery Button: Contact Us
| click here for the text only version of this page |


A Guide to Burial at Arlington National Cemetery

At the Time of Need

Arranging an Interment (Ground Burial)

Upon the demise of the veteran or veteran's spouse, the surviving spouse or personal representative should contact a local funeral home to arrange for any desired services in the home town. While the surviving spouse or personal representative is at the funeral home, the funeral director should telephone the Interment Office at Arlington National Cemetery:

Toll Free Calls Local Calls DSN Calls
1-877-907-8585 (703) 607-8585 (312) 327-8585

Before scheduling the service, the cemetery staff will need to determine the eligibility of the deceased (see interment eligibility criteria). Upon verification of eligibility, the cemetery staff will schedule the interment. Any documents requested by the cemetery staff to confirm eligibility can be faxed to the cemetery on telephone number (703) 607-8583.

Procedure for Arranging an Inurnment in the Columbarium

Arranging for an inurnment service is the same as for arranging for an interment (ground burial) service except that the surviving spouse or personal representative may telephone the Interment Office to arrange for the service. The urn containing the cremated remains must be tightly sealed. Cardboard boxes are not acceptable for placement in the columbarium. The urn must be hand carried by the family on the day of the service or delivered by a local funeral home up to three working days prior to the service. The cemetery will not accept cremated remains sent via US Postal Services or common carrier.

Important: Partial (or split) remains will not be accepted for burial, and in all cases, cremated remains interred or inurned at Arlington National Cemetery must be delivered with a Certificate of Cremation or a Death Certificate. NOTE: Cardboard containers are not acceptable for use in the Columbarium.

Columbarium niches are designed to accommodate two receptacles, e.g., for a veteran and eligible spouse. The niche dimensions are 13" in height, 10" in width, and 18" in length. Accordingly, it is important that these dimensions are considered when purchasing an urn (receptacle). If a second inurnment is anticipated, both receptacles must fit within these dimensions.

When the caisson is being provided to transport cremated remains, for ground burial or the Columbarium, the single receptacle, in addition to a folded American flag, must fit within a confined area measuring 11" in height, 13" in width, and 16" in length. Note: For the purpose of the ceremony and placement on the caisson, the receptacle should utilize no more than half of the total space available. Plastic shipping containers or urns are acceptable for the caisson and the Columbarium and must be tightly sealed.

Interment/Inurnment Costs

There are no fees or costs for an interment or inurnment. The only cost to the estate of the deceased is for any additional inscription that is needed on an existing private monument after the interment or for a vault if the next-of-kin should elect to provide for an outside container other that the graveliner provided by the government.

All costs associated with preparation of the remains, casket or urn, and shipping of the remains to the Washington, DC area are at the expense of the estate unless the deceased is currently on active duty with a branch of the Armed Forces. Please check with your local VA office and Social Security office to determine if any benefits are available from either or both agencies.

Assignment of Gravesites/Niches

Gravesites/niches are assigned the afternoon on the day before the interment service. Where a previous interment/inurnment has occurred. The next available grave or niche is assigned for the interment or inurnment. Assignment of graves and niches are without regard to military rank, race, color, creed, or gender of the qualifying service member. At the time of demise, family may request a burial location close to other family members interned or inurned within the cemetery, however limited space may prevent the cemetery from accommodating such requests.

Back to top

Military Honors

Enlisted — Standard graveside honors can be provided by the appropriate branch of service. The cemetery staff will arrange for the military honors when military honors are requested. The honors will include body bearers (pall bearers), firing party, and a bugler. Additional honors may be available for certain E-9's depending on the branch of service. A military chaplain may be scheduled by the cemetery staff unless the family minister is desired and provided by the next-of-kin or the funeral home.

Commissioned and Warrant Officers — In addition to the standard graveside honors provided above, the caisson, band, and escort troops may be scheduled by the cemetery staff, if requested. For Army and Marine O-6 and higher, the riderless horse is used. For Flag Officers (Navy, Coast Guard, and Marines), the Minute Guns are provided. For Flag Officers (Army, Navy, Coast Guard, and Marines), the Gun Salute is provided.

Effective January 1, 2009, all service members who die from wounds received as a result of enemy action and are being interred, inurned or memorialized at Arlington National Cemetery are eligible to receive full military funeral honors.

If the temperature is below 32 degrees all elements of the band may not be available. A modified band will then provide the honors.

Certified active military service — Former members of a group that has been certified as active military service for the purpose of receiving veteran benefits under Section 401 of Public Law 95-202 (see list) and are therefor entitled to inurnment in the Columbarium are now deemed entitled to military honors as well and will be provided such honors when requested. The honors will include body bearers (pall bearers), firing party, and a bugler. A military chaplain may be scheduled by the cemetery staff unless the family minister is desired and provided by the next-of-kin or the funeral home.

Dependents with no military service — The cemetery staff will arrange for body bearers and the family may request a military chaplain.

Burial Flags

Most veterans are eligible for a burial flag. Only one burial flag may be provided per veteran. Requests for a burial flag must be made at the time of need. Burial flags may be obtained from VA regional offices and most U.S. post offices by completing VA Form 21-2008, Application for United States Flag for Burial Purposes, and submitting it with a copy of the veteran's discharge papers at either of the locations.

Grave Markers/Niche Covers

Government Headstone/Niche Cover — The government will provide at no cost to the estate of the deceased an upright, white marble headstone or white niche cover. The cemetery staff at Arlington will place the order, which goes to the National Cemetery Administration, part of the Department of Veterans Affairs. The order for the headstone or niche cover will include the appropriate inscription and choice of faith emblems.

While the next-of-kin does not order the government headstone/niche cover for placement in Arlington National Cemetery, he or she can check on the status of the order by calling Arlington's Administration Building, 1-703-607-8577, between 7:45 a.m. and 3:45 p.m. EST. Please note that generally it takes between 3-4 months after the interment/inurnment for the Headstone/Niche Marker to be installed.

Private Monument — Certain sections of the cemetery were designated in 1947 where private monuments could be placed. Private monuments that were placed in the cemetery were subject to review and approval prior to installation.

Headstone Lithochrome Policy

Lithochrome is terminology used to refer to the black concrete dye placed on headstone and niche letters in National Cemeteries.  Over time, this dye fades due to weathering.  In January 2009 the Department of Veterans Affairs adopted a policy of only using lithochrome-free marble headstones or markers.  This policy is designed to enhance the appearance of national cemeteries by ensuring the headstones and markers have a consistent
appearance, regardless of age.

Please click here for Arlington National Cemetery's Lithochrome Policy.

Please click here for the Department of Veteran Affairs' Lithochrome Policy.


Graveliners are the outside concrete containers in which caskets are placed. The government will provide a graveliner for an initial casketed interment at no cost. If the previous interment was without a graveliner or vault and the subsequent interment is on top of the previous interment, the government will not provide a graveliner. Subsequent burials in a gravesite utilizing the government concrete container, or privately purchased vault, may also utilize a government concrete liner or vault. Graveliners are used by the government to reduce the amount of sinkage of the grave subsequent to the interment.

Attending a Chapel Service

If you are attending a chapel service prior to a funeral, you will no longer be able to drive to the Old Post Chapel or Memorial Chapel on Joint-Base Myer-Henderson Hall (formerly Fort Myer) from Arlington National Cemetery without DoD decals on your vehicle and the appropriate identification (government-issued photo ID, valid driver license, vehicle registration and proof of insurance). All vehicles without DoD decals must enter through JBM-HH Hatfield, Wright or Henderson Hall gates. For more information and directions to JBM-HH gates, please read the new access control policy.


Back to top
Back to Funeral Information