Who’s Allowed to Be Buried at Arlington National Cemetery?

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When veterans die, there are special considerations to be made. Family members may want to have a full military funeral, including a military funeral flag presentation and funeral procession. A special eulogy for a veteran may be written, and those who had family members in the Navy may wonder about Navy burials at sea.

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While most military families understand veteran death benefits, they may not know whether or not their loved one is allowed to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. There have been almost 400,000 people’s remains buried at Arlington since the cemetery was founded during the Civil War. It’s not just Americans who can receive this honor. In fact, citizens of 11 other countries are buried at the historic site. Over three million people visit Arlington each year. 

The requirements for burial have changed over the years, and they may continue to change as the cemetery fills. Read below to learn more about the basic requirements for who is allowed to be buried at Arlington.

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Requirements to Be Buried at Arlington

Although there are 139 national cemeteries, Arlington is considered to be the most esteemed resting place for veterans. The criteria to receive burial at Arlington are extremely stringent compared with the requirements for being buried at other national cemeteries. The Arlington website says that the decision on whether or not the requirements are met will be determined “at the time of need,” so prior approval cannot be given.

Here are some of the requirements, or part of the Code of Regulations, that you or your loved one must meet to be buried at Arlington. For the most part, to be buried in Arlington, you or your loved one must be a current service member or one who received an honorable discharge.

A person qualifies for burial at Arlington if:

  • The deceased died on Title 10 Active Duty. A person is said to be under Title 10 Active Duty if they are service members ordered to federal-level active duty for federal-level missions. 
  • The deceased retired from active duty and was receiving active duty retirement pay. This means that you or your loved one served in the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marines for a period of 20 years. The service member could also have been a member of the Reserve or National Guard for twenty years and had reached the age of 60. 
  • The deceased received a Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross, Air Force Cross, Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star, or Purple Heart. The Medal of Honor is the highest of these honors. It is given to military members who risked their lives beyond an ordinary act of bravery against an enemy of the U.S. 
  • The deceased was any former active-duty military prisoner of war who died on or after Nov. 30, 1993. The law detailing who may receive burial was enacted in November of 1993.
  • Surviving spouses of soldiers may be buried next to their loved ones. The spouses cannot have been remarried to another person after the death of their previous spouse.

A person might not qualify for the burial but may be eligible for inurnment at Arlington if:

  • The deceased dies during training for a Title 10 operation. The deceased needs to have died during actual military service instead of military training to receive burial. Those who died during training qualify to have their remains entombed at Arlington.
  • The deceased was a member of the Reserve or National Guard who served at least one day in active duty.
  • The deceased was a veteran of the military but did not retire from the military. Only military veterans who retired after 20 years in the military may be buried at Arlington.

If you think that your family member qualifies to be buried at Arlington, you must have all the required documents before contacting Arlington. Here is the documentation you need to gather. 

  • DD214 or service documentation showing the deceased’s honorable discharge and active duty service 
  • Death certificate (here's a guide on how to get one)
  • Cremation certificate, if applicable
  • Succession documents for the Person Authorized to Direct Disposition to act on behalf of the Primary Next of Kin 
  • Those who wish to have unmarried adult dependents buried with a military member at Arlington must also remit other documents
» MORE: How do you host a virtual funeral? Start here

 

Eligibility for Arlington Burials FAQs

Here are some other common questions regarding burials at Arlington National Cemetery. Contact representatives at the national cemetery if you have extenuating circumstances that are not listed on the Arlington website.

Can spouses be buried at Arlington?

Yes, spouses, surviving spouses (when they die), and minor or permanently dependent children may be buried at Arlington. Those who wish to bury minor or dependent children must fill out at least two additional forms before the burial can be approved. 

Are presidents allowed to be buried there?

Currently, past and present U.S. presidents and vice presidents are allowed to be buried at Arlington. William Howard Taft and John F. Kennedy are the only presidents presently buried in the prestigious location.

Those serving as the Chief Justice of the United States or Associate Justices of the Supreme Court are also allowed to be buried at Arlington. 

What does it cost to be buried at Arlington?

If your loved one qualifies to be buried at Arlington National Cemetery, there are not any costs for the interment. Family members who are placed next to their loved ones may be required to pay for the additional inscription on the grave marker. Also, family members can pay extra for a casket to be placed into a vault as opposed to a government-provided grave liner. 

The preparation of the body for burial, the casket or urn, and transportation of the remains to Arlington must be paid for by the estate. The only exception to this rule is if the deceased died while on active duty. If this is the case, the entire cost of the funeral may be paid for by the federal government.

How long does it take to complete a burial at Arlington?

If an active service member dies while in action, they may be buried in Arlington within two weeks of the death. Other family members may need to wait up to three weeks for burial. Active-duty soldiers who died in combat have first priority in burial times. Burials are given priority over the deceased who are cremated.

If the deceased is cremated, the current wait times are as long as nine to eleven months. The wait times can be shorter for those requesting a service without a funeral escort. 

What is the burial schedule at Arlington?

Family members are guests are asked to arrive at Arlington 45 minutes before the scheduled funeral. Guards will direct guests where to park, and the receptionist will direct you to your assigned family waiting room.

Ten or fifteen minutes before the service, the family is escorted to the gravesite location. 

During the service, which generally lasts between 20 and 30 minutes, the committal service is conducted, and the military funeral honors are rendered.

Honoring Your Loved One at Arlington

Although it is a great honor to have a loved one buried at Arlington, the process takes a great deal of patience. Not only are the family members required to gather the appropriate documents, but the estate also has to pay for the transportation of the body to Virginia. You also cannot schedule the service when it is convenient for you and your guests.

Families may consider burying their deceased loved ones in one of the 139 national cemeteries dotting the country. Many of these burial places are equally beautiful and peaceful, and you may find a location that is closer to home. There are national cemeteries in 40 states as well as Puerto Rico. 

If you're looking for more information on veterans' funerals, check out our guides on military funeral flag presentations, how to write a eulogy for a veteran, and what to do when a veteran dies.


Sources

  1. “Arlington National Cemetery Funeral Information.” Arlington National Cemetery. https://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/Funerals.
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