Private Headstone Markers

Effective December 2017 Arlington National Cemetery will no longer be able to accept requests for new Private Markers for funerals which are scheduled to be conducted after December 31, 2017. It is imperative that families do not create, order from a vendor, or coordinate to install a Private Marker prior to approval by Arlington National Cemetery.

ANC no longer has appropriate space available for placement of new Private Markers in the 13 authorized sections due to the extremely limited space as well as several interment challenges created in older sections, such as growth of trees, landscape and maintenance provisions, and safety concerns for families and staff working in and around these markers.

Families who currently have a Private Marker or foresee a secondary interment or inscription at Arlington National Cemetery are reminded the perpetual care of these headstones are the family’s responsibility. Private Markers are not government issued, therefore accurate commemoration of individuals buried at Arlington National Cemetery on Private Markers is the immediate responsibility of the family.

More information is available on the Private Markers factsheetPrivate Markers factsheet.


Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Why are you no longer accepting private markers?
A. All of the original 13 sections, designated for PMs have been filled (as of December 2017). There is no more space in the remaining sections designated for PMs. A PM requires more space for a significant foundation and consumes additional space to accommodate care of the grounds which ensures Arlington’s iconic look.

Q. Are only VIPs authorized a PM?
A. No. Any veteran or family member was eligible to request a PM at a loved one’s time of need. Historically, during and after the Civil War, families who could afford a private marker would do so to honor their loved one. Today, you will find government upright headstones marking 4-star generals, Medal of Honor recipients, etc. It was a matter of family preference and a commitment to fully fund and care for the maintenance of the private marker.

Q. What if a tree is removed; can a PM be reserved for that space?
A. When a dead or damaged tree is removed, an acceptable replacement tree will be installed to maintain the iconic look of the various sections within the cemetery. This is important to the historic district of ANC as well as the cemetery’s arboretum status.

Q. Will there be space in the new sections of the cemetery?
A. No, per Title 10 USC § 553.28, PMs are only authorized in sections of the cemetery where they existed prior to January 1, 1947. All new sections will consist of either government upright headstones or columbarium court/wall marble niche covers.

Q. What does it mean, the family has to maintain the perpetual care of the PM?
A. Families who have elected a PM, are responsible for all maintenance of the private marker to include repairs to damaged markers or any additional inscriptions. ANC will conduct minor routine cleaning of it and maintain the ground around it.

Q. Do PMs have problems in the cemetery/ cost the family, the tax payer?
A. The majority of the problems with the PMs are they have errors in fact (incorrect dates, names are misspelled) or there is damage to the stone or foundation. Errors were likely from the families ordering or mistakes made by memorial companies. These can impact the identity of the decedent and inadvertently cause confusion in our interment databases. Currently ANC has 885 PMs in the cemetery with decedents who are not properly commemorated and each year approximately 30 PMs become safety hazards or fall off their foundations. This requires additional man hours to coordinate corrections and resolve safety concerns.

Q. What was/is the process to request?
A. At time of need, the family requests to place a PM in lieu of a government marker, if space is available. They are informed of: size requirements; required to complete a government marker template; understand the timeline – 60 days for inscription update / 120 for new PM; marker provided by commercial vendor and a proposed template and PNOK authorization; ANC reviews for policy compliance and quality assurance on date; and approvals are made; headstone is then ordered by family; and vendor placement is overseen by the cemetery.