All veterans are entitled to drape an American flag over their casket at burial. Veteran’s families may apply for United States flag for burial purposes by filling out a VA Form 21–2008. Survivors may go to any VA Regional Office or US Post Office to obtain a flag. Funeral directors will also be able to assist you with this request.
Form 21–2008 comes complete with directions on how to fold the flag and display it. These flags are made of cotton and are easily weather damage so they are not appropriate for outside use for any extended period of time. After the funeral is concluded the flag is folded and given to the next of kin. Parents are eligible to receive a flag and flag case even if they are not listed as primary next of kin. If the veteran happens to be buried in a VA cemetery that has an Avenue of Flags, the veteran’s family may donate the burial flag to be flown on patriotic holidays.
NEXT OF KIN
- The living spouse of the veteran is considered primary next of kin. In the case there is no spouse the next of kin is regarded in the following order:
- Sons and daughters in order of seniority
- Oldest parent unless legal custody was granted to another person
- Blood or adopted relative who had been granted legal custody
- Brothers or sisters in order of seniority
- Oldest grandparent
- Other relatives in accordance with the laws in the deceased state of residence
RECEIVING A MARKER OR HEADSTONE
If an application has been submitted for a headstone or marker and it has been more than 30 days and not yet received, you should contact the application assistance office at 1 (800) 697–6947 to make sure the application was received. If it is found that it had been received and is being processed, check back again 60 days after the date of the veteran’s death. If at that time the headstone or marker has not been installed contact the party responsible for receiving the delivery of the headstone or marker, usually the cemetery or funeral home.
PRESIDENTIAL MEMORIAL CERTIFICATE
Another entitlement of all deceased veterans is a Presidential Memorial Certificate available to next of kin. It bears the signature of the current President and additional copies may be requested for other family members. A regional VA office will accept applications for the Presidential Memorial Certificate or the application can be sent by US mail to:
Presidential Memorial Certificate (41A1C)
Department of Veterans Affairs
5109 Russell Rd.
Quantico, VA 22134–3903
Or you can get instructions to fax the application through a toll-free line by going to the website http://www.cem.va.gov
Email requests will not be accepted. All requests must be accompanied by a copy of the veteran’s discharge papers and death certificate.
A FUNERAL WITH MILITARY HONORS
Military honors at the funeral are available to any veteran desiring them or available at the request of the next of kin. These honors are not the responsibility of the VA but rather the Department of Defense. They include folding and presenting the United States burial flag and playing taps.
A minimum of two uniformed military people will be members of the funeral honors detail, one of whom will have served in the veteran’s service of the Armed Forces. Military honors can be requested by the funeral home director. If the veteran is being buried in a VA national cemetery then the Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration staff will arrange the military honors. Make sure to inform the funeral director that military honors are desired.
Having the veteran express his or her wishes ahead of time will make the processes of funeral preparation much easier on the surviving family members.