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Man and woman sitting in a secluded space with a telescope, looking at the night sky

Naming a Star in a Loved One’s Memory

By Educational, Grief/Loss, Memorial

There are so many beautiful ways to honor a loved one’s life. Etching their name in the night sky may be one option you’ve never considered. Perfect for an astronomer, sci-fi nerd, or general space enthusiast, it’s possible to name a star after your loved one and keep their memory alive in the night sky for generations to come.

There are several companies that offer star registration, but we aren’t going to talk about all of them. Instead, we will focus on three big ones to give you an idea of what types of services are available.

Milky Way galaxy in the night sky

International Star Registry (ISR)

One of the first companies to offer star registration, ISR has been helping families honor and memorialize loved ones since 1979. They offer a variety of packages for every budget, starting at around $30 and going up to around $200 (prices subject to change). Each package offers the ability to choose your preferred constellation and receive an authentic Star Registry certificate (with additional add-ons depending on the package you select).

Additionally, every star registration is included in the world’s only published catalog of named stars, which is registered with the US Copyright Office and the Library of Congress. The catalog includes coordinates for every star registered.

To learn more about ISR and its mission to help families honor and remember loved ones through the naming of a star, click here to visit their website.

Man looking up at the darkening sky with telescope beside him

Star Name Registry

With its “Find My Star” app, Star Name Registry gives you the ability to view your star at any time of day or night using your smartphone. They also offer a variety of packages, starting at around $30 and going up to roughly $120 (prices subject to change). Every package comes with a star certificate, welcome letter, star info pack, and app entry. The “star info pack” includes a sky atlas, star location guide, constellation booklet, universe booklet, and an explanation of your star.

The company guarantees your registered star, but if you have concerns, they do offer a 30-day money back guarantee. To learn more about Star Name Registry, click here to visit their website.

Man and woman sitting in a secluded space with a telescope, looking at the night sky

Global Star Registry

Based in Sweden, Global Star Registry is available in multiple languages, including English, German, Spanish, amongst others. Similar to ISR (see above), all stars registered through Global Star Registry are recorded with the US Copyright Office.

Packages start around $30 and go up to $94 (prices subject to change). However, if you elect for any of the packages above $30, you will also receive a gift pack. (Other add-ons may also be listed.) The gift pack includes a star certificate, an engraved pendant or keychain, and a sky map.

To read reviews or check out the package options, click here to visit their website.

Stars in the night sky

Are There Other Star Registration Services Out There?

Absolutely! You aren’t limited to these three services if they don’t appeal to you. You could check out Online Star Register, Name a Star, or Starify, for example.

As you research which star registration service to use, here are some important things to consider:

  • Does the company offer a package that suits your budget?
  • Do the add-ons appeal to you?
  • Is your star registered with the US Copyright Office (if that’s important to you)?
  • Do they offer returns or a money-back guarantee if you should change your mind?
  • Is the company transparent and clear on what you will receive?
  • Does the company offer clear ways to reach out for customer support?

Young girl looking up at the night sky, looking for a registered star

A Quick Note on Star Registration

Naming a star in memory of a loved one is a beautiful way to keep their memory alive. It will blaze in the night sky forever. However, it’s important to note that no one legally owns outer space. Any naming of stars is for sentimental purposes only. Your star registration exists on paper and does not affect the star’s official name with the International Astronomical Union (IAU). The IAU officially tracks the scientific names of all stars and celestial bodies.

If you decide that naming a star in your loved one’s honor is a meaningful way to remember them, may you find comfort, peace, and joy each time you see them shining brightly on the darkest nights.

*DISCLAIMER: We do not endorse any of these companies; we are merely stating the options available to you when honoring a loved one by naming a star. 

Image of Vietnam Women's Memorial sculpture

Honoring Our Fallen Heroes: Vietnam Women’s Memorial

By Memorial, Veterans

I want to say how proud I was of the women I served with, and how much we cared for these young men who served during that era. I’m so grateful to all those wounded soldiers in particular who came to stand by our side and support us to help us get [the] memorial built. They were so appreciative and so grateful.”  – Diane Carlson Evans, Captain in the Army Nurse Corps

Memorial Day is a day set aside every year to honor and remember the many men and women who have died while serving the United States of America and its people. As we seek to honor them, let us remember them and the great sacrifices they made to preserve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Image of Vietnam Women's Memorial sculpture

Vietnam Women’s Memorial

More than 265,000 military and civilian women served around the world during the Vietnam War era. They filled professional, technical, leadership, and humanitarian roles. Around 11,000 women served directly in Vietnam, and 90% of them were nurses. The Vietnam Women’s Memorial honors every woman who served in the Vietnam War, particularly the eight nurses who lost their lives.

Dedicated on November 11, 1993, the memorial highlights the stories of women in the military, ensuring that their dedication, resolve, and courage are remembered right alongside the servicemen they partnered with during the conflict. Situated just south of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam Women’s Memorial is a stunning bronze sculpture that depicts three women in various roles of service. It stands nearly 7 feet (2.1 meters) tall and weighs 2,000 pounds (907 kilograms).

How It Came to Be

Without Diane Carlson Evans, it’s possible that the Vietnam Women’s Memorial would not exist today.

As a former Army combat nurse and Vietnam veteran, Evans made a point of attending the dedication ceremony of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in 1982. The following year, she saw a picture of the statue depicting three servicemen (called “The Three Soldiers”). It was slated to be added to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. At that moment, she decided that women should also be honored, or their contribution to the war might be forgotten by future generations.

Evans founded the Vietnam Nurses Memorial Project (now called Vietnam Women’s Memorial Foundation), and she championed the creation of a memorial to honor the women who served during the Vietnam War. It would take 10 years, but on November 11, 1993, the Vietnam Women’s Memorial was dedicated as an act of honor and remembrance.

Army medical kit, possibly used by nurses

Meaningful Features of the Memorial

The Sculpture of Three Women

While Congress approved the creation of the memorial in 1988, they rejected the initial design. This led to an open design competition with 350 submissions. Of the submissions, Glenna Goodacre’s design came out on top, and she received a commission to create the statue.

Renowned for her bronze work, Goodacre has won numerous awards and honors for her skill. When asked about the design for the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, she said:

The emphasis of this tribute is centered on their emotions: their compassion, their anxiety, their fatigue, and above all, their dedication. The photos from Vietnam often included stacks of sandbags. It seemed natural for a nurse – in a moment of crisis – to be supported by sandbags as she serves as the life support for a wounded soldier lying across her lap. The standing woman looks up, in search of a med-i-vac helicopter or, perhaps, in search of help from God. The kneeling figure has been called “the heart and soul” of the piece because so many vets see themselves in her. She stares at any empty helmet, her posture reflecting her despair, frustrations, and all the horrors of war.”

Leaves from yellowwood tree

8 Yellowwood Trees

George Dickie, a  professor of architecture at Penn State University, was chosen as the landscape designer for the memorial. His challenge was to create a landscape concept that would seamlessly incorporate the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Three Soldiers statue, and the Vietnam Women’s Memorial. The three pieces were all added to the memorial at different times.

By adding pathways and a terrace, Dickie was able to bring the three separate elements together. Perhaps the most significant landscaping feature is the 8 yellowwood trees that surround the Vietnam Women’s Memorial sculpture. Each tree represents one of the eight women killed in action in Vietnam.

These women are also recognized on the Memorial Wall, alongside more than 58,000 names of men who lost their lives or were missing in action. The women, all nurses, named on the Wall are:

  • 1st Lt. Hedwig Orlowski
  • 2nd Lt. Carol Drazba
  • 1st Lt. Sharon Lane
  • Captain Mary Klinker
  • Captain Eleanor Alexander
  • 2nd Lt. Elizabeth Jones
  • 2nd Lt. Pamela Donovan
  • Lt. Colonel Annie Graham

To learn more about these brave nurses, click here to read about their service during the Vietnam War.

Vietnam Memorial Wall with Washington Monument in background

Why Do We Have Memorials?

Permanent memorials ensure a lasting tribute for those who have been loved and lost. They also allow us, as people, to honor those we wish to always remember. Just as we create memorials for our heroes, we also create them for our loved ones. There are five key reasons why permanent memorials are important, whether it is to commemorate an event, a group of people, or just one person, like a close loved one.

  1. A permanent memorial provides a place for people to mourn.
  2. It gives all mourners (not just family) access to pay their respects and connect with those who have died.
  3. It provides a permanent place that will exist for generations to come.
  4. It allows people the opportunity to remember and reflect on the lives lived.
  5. It ensures that the dead are remembered and respected.

For many of our veterans, a large-scale memorial honors the group as a whole. The Vietnam Women’s Memorial stands proudly alongside the Three Soldiers statue and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. Together, they honor all who served in the conflict. However, for individuals, families set headstones, grave markers, or inscriptions in place. Both types of memorialization are important and honor our veterans and our loved ones.

Picture of woman in uniform, standing by American flag and saluting

Want to Get Involved?

If you’d like to assist the Vietnam Women’s Memorial with its mission, you can donate to their cause at

Additionally, if you are planning a visit to Washington, D.C., consider stopping at the Military Women’s Memorial Museum. The well-reviewed museum features an education center, interactive exhibits, and an impressive collection of stories from women in the military.

Honoring Our Fallen Heroes: Air Force Memorial

By Memorial, Veterans

“A soldier can walk the battlefields where he once fought, a Marine can walk the beaches he once stormed, but an airman can never visit the patch of sky he raced across on a mission to defend freedom. And so, it’s fitting that, from this day forward, the men and women of the Air Force will have this memorial, a place here on the ground that recognizes their achievements and sacrifices in the skies above.” President George W. Bush

Memorial Day is a day set aside every year to honor and remember the many men and women who have died while serving the United States of America and its people. As we seek to honor them, let us remember them and the great sacrifices they made to preserve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Sunset view of the Air Force Memorial

Air Force Memorial

Opened in 2066, the Air Force Memorial is an impressive structure with three spires soaring to the sky. The memorial honors both current active-duty Air Force servicemembers as well as airmen and women killed in action. Strategically located at a promontory point, the monument overlooks Arlington National Cemetery, the Pentagon, the Potomac River, and the Washington, D.C. skyline.

The memorial stands at 402 feet (123 meters) high, and the tallest of the three spires is 270 feet (82 meters). The memorial is flanked by two granite walls, each highlighting inscriptions based on the three core values of the Air Force: “Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence in All We Do.” The Air Force Memorial receives hundreds of thousands of visitors every year and is a visually stunning tribute to aviation and the United States Air Force.

How It Came to Be

In the 1990s, the Air Force Association (AFA) and the Air Force Sergeants’ Association (AFSA) began efforts to create a memorial honoring the Air Force. In 1992, Oliver “Ollie” Crawford – a WWII U.S. Army Air Corps veteran – established the Air Force Memorial Foundation with the intent to raise funds to construct an Air Force memorial.

In 1993, legislation passed authorizing the creation of an Air Force memorial. With that approval, the Air Force Memorial Foundation worked closely with the National Park Service to survey 18 possible sites. After much contemplation, the Air Force Memorial Foundation selected three acres at the memorial’s current location. The groundbreaking ceremony was held on September 15, 2004. The event was attended by dozens of renowned military aviators and featured a flyover of both vintage and modern aircraft.

Six Air Force jets in the sky with white jet stream following them

The Unique Design and Its Meaning

As with any memorial, the creators approached the design with intentionality and purpose. The Air Force Memorial Foundation selected architect James Ingo Freed to design the memorial. Freed’s previous designs include the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.

Curving Spires “Soaring to Glory”

Perhaps the most striking feature of the memorial is its centerpiece – three stainless steel and concrete spires that rise more than 200 feet (61 meters) in the air. Collectively called “Soaring to Glory,” the spires are visible for miles and evoke the Air Force’s three core values. Additionally, each spire represents different members of the Air Force – active, guard, and reserve. According to James Freed, the memorial’s “array of arcs against the sky evokes a modern image of flight by jet and space vehicles. At the same time, it enshrines the past in permanent resemblance of the pioneers of flight who came before and pays homage to the future.”

Honor Guard sculpture at the Air Force Memorial

Air Force Honor Guard Sculpture

Another signature feature of the memorial is the Air Force Honor Guard sculpture. The bronze image depicts four figures dressed in precisely replicated USAF Honor Guard clothing. The sculptor paid meticulous attention to every detail, from the crossing of the shoelaces to every aspect of the clothing. Two of the figures are flag bearers (holding the U.S. flag and the Air Force ceremonial flag). The other two figures are weapons bearers. When speaking about his vision for the sculpture, artist Zenos Frudakis says that the figures “came into view as unique people, with faces and bodies infused with life, inspiring connections to the real people who serve and sacrifice. They reflect the diversity of gender and race that strengthens the Air Force and the nation.”

Other Notable Features

While the spires and the Honor Guard sculpture are the focal points of the memorial, other notable elements were included. The Parade Ground (walkway) leads visitors to two granite walls. Each wall is engraved, including Medal of Honor recipients and quotes relating to the USAF’s three core values. Additionally, there is a glass wall that honors missing Air Force members. Each element invites visitors to reflect on the courage, sacrifice, and dedication of the Air Force.

Air Force ceremonial flag

Why Do We Have Memorials?

Permanent memorials ensure a lasting tribute for those who have been loved and lost. They also allow us, as people, to honor those we wish to always remember. Just as we create memorials for our heroes, we also create them for our loved ones. There are five key reasons why permanent memorials are important, whether it is to commemorate an event, a group of people, or just one person, like a close loved one.

  1. A permanent memorial provides a place for people to mourn.
  2. It gives all mourners (not just family) access to pay their respects and connect with those who have died.
  3. It provides a permanent place that will exist for generations to come.
  4. It allows people the opportunity to remember and reflect on the lives lived.
  5. It ensures that the dead are remembered and respected.

For many of our veterans, a large-scale memorial honors the group as a whole. This is the case with Air Force servicemembers and the Air Force Memorial. However, for individuals, families set headstones, grave markers, or inscriptions in place. Both types of memorialization are important and honoring to our veterans and our loved ones.

Runway filled with Air Force fighter jets

Want to Get Involved?

There are many ways to support the United States Air Force, its members, and their families. If you are interested, consider looking into the following charitable organizations to see if one appeals to you:

Airmen Memorial Foundation
Folds of Honor
Air Force Aid Society
Air Force Assistance Fund

Shows a view of graves at Arlington National Cemetery with cherry blossom trees

Honoring Our Fallen Heroes: Arlington National Cemetery

By Memorial, Veterans

Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices.” – President Harry S. Truman

Memorial Day is a day set aside every year to honor and remember the many men and women who have died while serving the United States of America and its people. As we seek to honor them, let us remember them and the great sacrifices they made to preserve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Arlington National Cemetery

Shows a view of graves at Arlington National Cemetery with cherry blossom trees

The most well-known of all military cemeteries in the United States, Arlington National Cemetery is a beautiful, solemn, and reverent place, filled with a spirit of heroism, courage, sacrifice, and dedication. With occupants from every major American conflict since the Revolutionary War, Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place of more than 400,000 military service members and their eligible dependents.

In the beginning, the cemetery was just 200 acres (1864) but has since grown to 639 acres (2020). At present, 25-30 funerals are conducted every weekday and 7-8 each day of the weekend. With burial space dwindling, the National Cemetery Administration is looking into options for how they can ensure military members can continue to request interment at Arlington National Cemetery.

Shows military funeral procession at Arlington National Cemetery complete with horse-drawn caisson

How It Came to Be

The cemetery has a rather unusual history. Arlington National Cemetery used to be Arlington House, the historic family residence of Robert E. Lee. Yes, that Robert E. Lee. Originally established by George Washington Parke Custis, adoptive grandson of George Washington, Arlington House was passed down to Mary Custis Lee, wife of Robert E. Lee.

The Lee family made their home at Arlington House prior to the American Civil War, but they were forced to abandon it after war was declared. Then, the U.S. Army seized the estate for its strategic location overlooking every federal building in the nation’s capital. On May 13, 1864, the first burial was conducted – for Private William Christman. By the end of the war, approximately 16,000 soldiers were interred on the grounds.

However, after the war ended, the Lee family challenged ownership of the estate, saying that it had been illegally confiscated during the war. Taxes had been due, but the family was denied the opportunity to pay the taxes, resulting in the loss of the home. After many years and court dates, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with the Lee family in 1882. Ownership was returned to George Washington Custis Lee, son of Robert and Mary Custis Lee. He then sold the land back to the U.S. federal government, so it could continue as a national cemetery.

For an even more in-depth history of the cemetery, click here to read an article from Smithsonian Magazine.

Significant Features of the Cemetery

In addition to paying their respects and taking in the sea of white headstones, many visitors to Arlington National Cemetery will stop by three main features: the Eternal Flame, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and Arlington House.

The Eternal Flame

Shows Eternal Flame at John F. Kennedy's gravesite

Of the many Americans buried in Arlington National Cemetery, John F. Kennedy (commonly called JFK), the 35th president of the United States, is perhaps one of the most famous. After his assassination in 1963, his wife Jackie Kennedy wanted the American public to have access to JFK’s grave, so they might pay their respects. As a veteran, JFK was eligible for burial at Arlington National Cemetery.

In the three years following his death, it’s estimated that more than 16 million people visited his final resting place. Because of the large crowds, the Kennedy family constructed a larger grave site and included the Eternal Flame, a symbol of hope and renewal, at the center of its circular design. Jackie Kennedy first lit the flame in 1967.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Three soldiers standing in front of The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, saluting and honoring the soldiers represented

Another prominent and well-known feature of the cemetery is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The most hallowed of all graves at Arlington National Cemetery, the tomb is dedicated to the unidentified dead of war.

Constructed in 1921 following World War I, an unidentified solider was selected at random to represent all U.S. unidentified fallen soldiers of the conflict. Now, the tomb also holds the remains of unidentified service members from World War II and the Korean War. Until 1998, a Vietnam War soldier also lay to rest in the tomb. However, through DNA testing, he was identified and returned to his family. His place remains vacant to this day.

The tomb is also famous for its Sentinels or tomb guards. The memorial is guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and this elite group of soldiers consider it the highest honor to serve. They wear no rank insignia, command silence and respect at the tomb, and actively guard the tomb from any threat. For more information about the tomb, click here.

Arlington House

Shows Arlington House high on the hill, surrounded by blossoming trees and green grass

Originally built by George Washington Parke Custis, the house was intended to be a living memorial to President George Washington. Designed in the Greek revival style, the house includes several wings with bedrooms, formal dining and sitting rooms, a large hall, and a parlor. Following the death of her father, Mary Custis Lee inherited the home, and she and her husband Robert E. Lee lived there for 30 years until the outbreak of the American Civil War.

Built high on a hill overlooking the Potomac River, the house’s memorable exterior includes eight, massive columns. Today, Arlington National Cemetery visitors can tour the home at their leisure. A National Park Ranger is always on duty to answer questions. Arlington House is the most visited home in the entire National Park system, and it’s in the top 5 of most visited historical homes in the United States. It is a striking addition to any visit to the beautiful cemetery grounds.

Shows the inscription on a military headstone

Why Do We Have Memorials?

Permanent memorials ensure a lasting tribute for those who have been loved and lost. They also allow us, as people, to honor those we wish to always remember. Just as we create memorials for our heroes, we also create them for our loved ones. There are five key reasons why permanent memorials are important, whether it is to commemorate an event, a group of people, or just one person, like a close loved one.

  1. A permanent memorial provides a place for people to mourn.
  2. It gives all mourners (not just family) access to pay their respects and connect with those who have died.
  3. It provides a permanent place that will exist for generations to come.
  4. A permanent memorial allows people the opportunity to remember and reflect on the lives lived.
  5. It ensures that the dead are remembered and respected.

For many of our veterans, a large-scale memorial honors the group as a whole, as is the case with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial or the World War II Memorial. However, at Arlington National Cemetery, individuals are honored. Each headstone states the name and rank of a specific person and remembers their individual service and sacrifice for our nation.

Wreaths on veteran gravesites

Want to Get Involved?

If you would like to honor those buried in Arlington National Cemetery, consider giving to Wreaths Across America. Every December, this organization lays wreaths at veteran graves at more than 3,700 locations across the nation. If you’d like to get involved, consider sponsoring a wreath or volunteering to participate in a wreath-laying ceremony. For more details, visit the Wreaths Across America website here.

Shows image of full memorial

Honoring Our Fallen Heroes: Marine Corps War Memorial

By Memorial, Veterans

Among those who served on Iwo Jima, uncommon valor was a common virtue.” – Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz

Memorial Day is a day set aside every year to honor and remember the many men and women who have died while serving the United States of America and its people. As we seek to honor them, let us remember them and the great sacrifices they made to preserve life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Marine Corps War Memorial

Shows image of full memorial

Also known as the Iwo Jima War Memorial, the Marine Corps War Memorial is dedicated to the lives and memory of all Marines who have given their lives in service to the United States since November 10, 1775. A commanding presence, the monument rests on a 7 and ½ acre tract of land approximately 100 feet above the Potomac River. While the monument honors Marines across nearly three centuries, the statue depicts events from Iwo Jima during World War II, a much-contested island during the battle for the Pacific.

How It Came to Be

After the end of World War II, Congress commissioned a memorial to honor the United States Marine Corps. During the Battle for Iwo Jima, six Marines hoisted an American flag atop Mount Suribachi, and photographer Joe Rosenthal of the Associated Press captured the iconic moment. The photo went on to win a Pulitzer Prize and became an inspiration for the Marine Corps War Memorial.

It took sculptor Felix de Weldon nine years to complete the project (1945-1954). Using a design created by Horace W. Peaslee, de Weldon first created the statue in plaster before taking it to Brooklyn, N.Y., for casting in bronze. The casting process alone took three years to complete. Once cast, the disassembled pieces were taken to Washington, D.C., where they were bolted and welded together. To make the statue as realistic as possible, de Weldon even modeled the faces of the men after the original flag-raisers. He was able to cast the faces of two of the surviving flag raisers faces in clay. He also scoured available pictures and records for the likenesses of the remaining four flag raisers.

The total cost of the memorial was $850,000, paid for with private donations from Marines and friends of the Marine Corps.  President Dwight D. Eisenhower dedicated the memorial on November 10, 1954, the 179th anniversary of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Shows dedication plaque that is affixed to Marine Corps War Memorial

The Story Behind the Marine Corps War Memorial

The island of Iwo Jima was considered strategically important during the Pacific theater of World War II. It was valuable for its ability to support long-range bombing missions against mainland Japan. Additionally, the Allies planned to use the island for sea and air blockades, intensive air bombardment, and a greater ability to destroy enemy air and naval capabilities.

The fighting began on February 19, 1945, and lasted 36 days. One regiment – the 28th Marines – sought to capture the extinct volcano Mount Suribachi. They did so on February 23, and as a result, there were actually two flag raisings. The first occurred on the morning of February 23 when the Marines first took the volcano, but the American flag was very small. As a result, Marines fighting all over the island couldn’t see the flag and gain encouragement from it. For that reason, later that same afternoon, six Marines hoisted a larger American flag in its place. It is this second flag raising that photographer Joe Rosenthal captured and became the inspiration for the Marine Corps War Memorial.

The six flag raisers were:

For many years, Rene Gagnon was believed to be one of the six, but the Marine Corps has since corrected that. However, Gagnon did play a major role. He carried the larger flag to the summit and then brought the smaller flag back down.

By the end of the fight for Iwo Jima on March 26, nearly 7,000 Marines had lost their lives. Amongst their number were Sergeant Strank, Corporal Block, and PFC Sousley. But the courage and determination of the Marines live on through the gratitude of an entire nation and the creation of the Marine Corps War Memorial.

Shows illustration of which figures are which men

Marine Corps War Memorial Statistics

  • The figures are 32 feet tall.
  • The bronze flagpole is 60 feet tall.
  • The flag flies 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
  • The figures occupy the same positions they did in the iconic Rosenthal image.
  • The M-l rifle and the carbine featured in the statue are 16 and 12 feet long, respectively.
  • The canteen would hold 32 quarts of water.
  • The figures stand on a rock slope above a granite base. The granite came from Sweden.
  • The entire memorial is about 78 feet tall.
  • The names and dates of every principal Marine Corps engagement form a gold ring around the base.

Why Do We Have Memorials?

Permanent memorials ensure a lasting tribute for those who have been loved and lost. They also allow us, as people, to honor those we wish to always remember. Just as we create memorials for our heroes, we also create them for our loved ones. There are five key reasons why permanent memorials are important, whether commemorating an event, a group of people, or just one person, like a close loved one.

  1. A permanent memorial provides a place for people to mourn.
  2. It gives all mourners (not just family) access to pay respects and connect with those who have died.
  3. It provides a permanent place that will exist for generations to come.
  4. A permanent memorial allows people to remember and reflect on lives lost.
  5. It ensures that the dead are remembered and respected.

Large-scale memorials, such as the Vietnam Veterans Memorial or the World War II Memorial, honor an entire group. However, for individuals, families set headstones, grave markers, or inscriptions in place. Both types of memorialization are important and honoring to our veterans and our loved ones. 

Shows Marine uniform, dog tags, and boot

Want to Get Involved?

If you’d like to honor the Marines, consider volunteering with or donating to non-profits that support Marines and their families. A few reputable organizations to check out are the Marine Corps Association, the Marine Corps League Foundation, Semper Fi & America’s Fund, and the Marine Corps Scholarship Foundation.

graves with bright red and pink flowers

Cemetery Etiquette: 6 Tips for Visiting a Cemetery

By Cemeteries, Grief/Loss, Memorial

Visiting your loved one’s grave can be an important part of your grief journey – it can help you process your loss and reflect on memories of your loved one. But visiting a cemetery can be intimidating, especially if you’re unfamiliar with cemetery etiquette. Whether you’re going to the cemetery by yourself or with others, it’s important to be considerate of those around you. By following the 6 tips below, you can show respect to other mourners, the groundskeepers, and those buried in the cemetery.

Drive with care

person driving a car

When driving through a cemetery, drive slower and more cautiously than you typically would. To avoid accidentally driving over a grave or monument, stay on the roadways and off the grass, even when parking, if there’s enough room for another car to pass. Also, follow the cemetery’s posted speed limit – if there are no signs, driving 10 mph or slower is recommended.

Remember that people walking in the cemetery may be grieving and not paying attention to their surroundings. Be cautious and watch for people crossing your path. If you’re listening to music in your car, keep the volume low while driving through the cemetery.

Respect graves and monuments

headstone for a mother with pink flowers on it

Out of respect for both the deceased in the cemetery and their loved ones, avoid touching monuments or stepping on graves. Depending on how old the cemetery you’re visiting is, some of the monuments may be decades or even centuries old and could be fragile and crumbling. While walking through some cemeteries, it can be difficult to tell where it’s okay to step. Try to follow the path made by the headstones, and don’t step over or on headstones or monuments.

Additionally, you should never remove anything left by another person at a grave. Flowers, coins, and decorations all have special meaning to the person who placed the items, and removing these personal items can cause more grief for a loved one. Coins may seem out of place, but they often have specific meanings, especially when placed on a veteran’s grave, so leave them where they are.

Be considerate of other mourners

Person standing in front of a grave

People visiting a cemetery are likely visiting a deceased loved one and may be overwhelmed with emotion, praying, or spending time in contemplation. To respect their needs, keep your speaking volume low and avoid talking on the phone or playing loud music. Keep your phone on vibrate or silent to keep distractions at a minimum.

Many people who are visiting a loved one’s grave don’t wish to speak with others. If you are nearby or passing them, it’s okay to smile or nod at them, but don’t try to start a conversation unless they seem like they want or need someone to talk to. Likewise, if a funeral or graveside service is going on while you visit, steer clear and leave them plenty of room. It’s also inappropriate to take photos of someone else’s funeral or of someone who is visiting a grave.

Keep an eye on children and pets

Parent holding a child's hand in a cemetery

Bringing your child to a loved one’s grave can benefit them by helping them come to terms with the death and learning about their own emotions and grief. But before you bring your child to a cemetery, speak to them about how to behave. They’ll need to be relatively quiet and respectful of others, and they shouldn’t run around the cemetery. Ensure your child knows the rules and can follow them before bringing them with you.

Some cemeteries allow owners to bring their pets, while others only allow service dogs. If your cemetery does allow pets, keep them on a leash at all times. You should also be respectful of other mourners. Not everyone likes animals, and an excitable dog may not be a welcome visitor for some people. Even more importantly, make sure you clean up after your pet. You don’t want to leave an unwelcome surprise for someone visiting their loved one!

Clean up after yourself

Person picking up an empty water bottle

No one wants to visit their loved one in the cemetery and find trash on the grave. Out of respect for other visitors and the groundskeepers, don’t litter and pick up any trash you see. If your cemetery doesn’t have a trash can, you can take the trash back with you – and next time you visit, bring a bag to put trash in.

It’s also a good idea to avoid leaving highly breakable items. Glass or ceramic vases and jars are beautiful, but bad weather or nighttime critters may knock over the items. Leaving food at a grave can also attract ants, bugs, and critters, so many cemeteries recommend that you not leave food at a grave.

Learn the cemetery’s specific rules

graves with bright red and pink flowers

As mentioned above, different cemeteries have their own rules, so learn your cemetery’s regulations before you go. One way to determine the cemetery’s rules is to check their website or call the office. If you can’t find any information online, many cemeteries also have a sign near the entrance with their rules. Most cemeteries are also only open at certain times, so please respect your cemetery’s hours.

Visiting a cemetery can be intimidating at first, but spending time at your loved one’s grave can help you in your grief journey. During your visit, remember that everyone grieves differently. You may find it helpful to speak out loud to your loved one, pray, cry, or simply stay silent and ponder. As long as you are respectful of both the deceased around you and other mourners, do what will help you in your grief journey.

shows memorial benches along the middle of a inlet walkway with lighthouse are end of wharf

9 Outdoor Memorial Ideas to Honor a Loved One

By Explore Options, Grief/Loss, Memorial

When you’re grieving the death of a loved one, it helps to find just the right way to honor their life. Sometimes that may mean painting a portrait, creating a scholarship fund, or writing down the story of your life together. Other times, when the person particularly enjoyed the sun and fresh air, it might mean creating an outdoor memorial.

To help you think through all the possibilities, here are 9 ways you could honor your loved one’s life outdoors.

white rose resting on top of gray granite headstone

1. Personalized Headstone

First, let’s look at a traditional option – a personalized headstone or grave marker. Whether it’s a burial plot or a cremation niche, you can customize a headstone or plaque that is meaningful. Include a sweet sentiment. Choose a unique color or shape. Add a photo or special image. There really are a lot of custom options available to you, if you’d like to honor your loved one’s life in this way. For more information on how you can create a one-of-a-kind headstone, read 6 Ways to Personalize a Memorial Marker or Gravestone Recipes: Adding a Sweet Touch to a Memorial Marker.

shows memorial benches along the middle of a inlet walkway with lighthouse are end of wharf

2. Bench with Memorial Message

Whether it’s at a cemetery, a favorite park, or even in the middle of downtown, you’ve likely seen memorial benches. Often built of wood or metal, the bench stands in a picturesque or meaningful location and includes a message. The message could be anything you want. Forever loved. In loving memory of <person’s name>. For <person’s name>, impractically perfect in every way. You could also choose a special quote or add a few details about the person. With metal benches, you can even include cutout shapes and various colors to make the bench even more unique.

shows person hugging a tree trunk that has a red heart painted on it

3. Remembrance Tree

If you prefer a completely natural option, you can plant a remembrance tree. While it’s certainly not required, you can also bury a loved one’s ashes with the tree. There are biodegradable urns specifically intended for this purpose. In the top section, seeds and soil mix together, and the ashes rest in a lower section. First, the seeds grow in the soil, and once they reach a certain level of growth, the roots spread down to the ashes, and everything mingles together. With this option, you have grown a tree that supports the environment, but also created a lasting memorial for someone you love.

shows a white outdoor flag against a wall of ivy

4. Memorial Flag

Whether you want a smaller garden flag or a full-sized flag, you can order a custom flag to honor your loved one’s life. Add a favorite photo. Use their favorite color. Choose a flag with a special image, like hearts, flowers, teddy bears, bees. Whatever makes it personal. Then, display it whenever you want. You may want to leave it out all year, or you could put it out on the person’s birthday or the anniversary of their death. There’s no right or wrong way. Simply do what feels right and helps you honor their life.

Shows small stone painted like a fox sitting in the grass

5. Garden Stone

You don’t need a garden to use an outdoor garden stone to honor a loved one’s life. You can either add a personalized plaque to a larger rock, or you can paint a smaller rock. Then, you can place the stone outside your home in a place that makes the most sense for you. That might be in your yard, on your patio, or lined against the walkway to your front door. This option is very versatile, and if you move or want to change things up, you can easily transport the stone to a new location.

Grandfather and grandson building a custom bird feeder

6. Bird Feeder

If birds are special to you or your loved one, then a memorial bird feeder may be just the right thing. You can choose one that appeals to you and add personalized elements, such as a loved one’s name or photo. You can choose the color or design based on their favorite feathered friend, such as red for the cardinal or rust orange for the robin. Then, select the best tree in your yard for its home. Every time you see a bird visiting the feeder, it’s like your loved one is enjoying it, too.

shows silver wind chime with hearts

7. Wind Chime

If you don’t have a large outdoor space, a wind chime doesn’t require much room and holds its own charm. Select a wind chime that feels like the perfect match for your needs and then find a space to hang it up. You can even add customized touches, like a specific color or engraving. Once its in place, the chime’s windswept tones will become a sweet reminder. Some days, it may even feel as if your loved one has stopped by to say hello.

Shows a light wood roadside cross with flowers and gifts around it

8. Memorial Cross

All of us have passed memorial crosses on the side of the road, marking the place where someone loved lost their life. For those who are lost tragically, a memorial cross can bring a sense of comfort to family and friends. It provides a place to mourn, but it also brings attention. Other people – even strangers – will pass by and think kindly of your loved one. Who were they? What were they like? And in a small way, your loved one’s memory lives on and serves as a reminder to value life and to live well.

Young woman creating a sculpture in an art studio

9. Sculpture

Finally, while this option is not for everyone, it may feel right and appropriate for your circumstances. With this form of outdoor memorial, there really are no creative boundaries. Though the most famous memorial sculptures are often associated with historical figures or key historical events, it doesn’t have to be that way. You can commission something small for your own backyard or for a local organization your loved one supported. In fact, many organizations have a memorial wall where beloved contributors are honored and remembered.

Please remember, these ideas only scratch the surface. There are so many ways that you can honor a loved one with an outdoor memorial, so let your imagination loose. And as you consider the best way to honor your loved one’s life, you will find that the process is helping you work through your feelings on the journey to healing and reconciliation.

Image of the Hadrian Mausoleum, also called Castel Sant'Angelo

10 Famous & Inspiring Tombs Around the World

By Cemeteries, History of Funerals, Memorial

While the practical purpose of a tomb is to protect the dead, there are examples around the world that prove a tomb can be so much more than that. In some cases, tombs are a testament to human ingenuity, a beautiful declaration of love, a site for reflection and faith, or a place of reverence and remembrance. Today, let’s look at 10 famous tombs around the world and reflect together on the impact a single life can have and how long memories can last.

Image of the Great Pyramids at Giza

#1 – The Pyramids at Giza (Cairo, Egypt)

More than likely, you’ve heard of the Pyramids at Giza, but did you know that they were built as tombs for Pharaohs Khufu (father), Khafre (son), and Menkaure (grandson)? Long considered a wonder of the Ancient World, the pyramids not only housed the mummified bodies of the pharaohs but also any worldly goods the Ancient Egyptians considered helpful for the afterlife. It took an estimated 20,000 workers more than 20 years to construct the largest of the three pyramids. To this day, scholars still aren’t quite sure how the pyramids were constructed. Regardless, the three pyramids stood as the tallest man-made structures for more than 4,000 years. That’s pretty impressive for a tomb!

Image of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre

#2 – The Church of the Holy Sepulchre (Jerusalem, Israel)

In many Christian circles, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is a place of reverence. When Constantine became emperor of Rome in 306 CE, he unearthed what was thought to be Jesus Christ’s tomb. After excavating it, he then built the Church of the Holy Sepulchre around the tomb. While the building has seen its fair share of damage, various Christian communities have restored it through the centuries. Today, six different Christian communities control the church, and they each have their own designated chapel inside it. With such strong ties to Christianity, it’s no wonder this particular tomb is important to so many around the world.

Image of the Taj Mahal

#3 – Taj Mahal (Agra, India)

The Taj Mahal is perhaps the most romantic of the tombs we will discuss today. Completed in 1648, the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal as a breathtaking final burial place for his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. With extensive grounds, the complex includes a mausoleum, a garden, and a mosque. Gorgeous in its detail, the all-marble building celebrates the love story between these two historical figures. A royal historian from Shah Jahan’s time described the relationship in his records. He stated that the two were close confidantes and possessed extraordinary physical and spiritual compatibility. When Mumtaz died in childbirth (with their 14th child!), Jahan built the Taj Mahal as an enduring tribute to her. At his death, he was laid to rest beside her, and to this day, they lay together – forever.

Image of the Terracotta Army found in Qin's Mausoleum

#4 – Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor (Xi’an, Shaanxi province, China)

Next up is the mausoleum for the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang (c. 259–210 BCE), who unified China into a single political entity. He standardized scripts, weights, measures, and coins, while also improving roads and fortifications. However, perhaps what he’s most remembered for is his impressive burial complex with its famous Terracotta Army. With more than 8,000 soldiers, 130 chariots, 520 horses, and 150 cavalry horses, the Army is stunning from an archeological perspective. Every soldier has a unique facial expression, and each one has authentic clothes, weapons, and hairstyles (different from each other!). No doubt intended to protect the emperor in the afterlife, archeologists believe there are still more soldiers, horses, and chariots to uncover in the years to come.

Image of the Tomb of Jahangir

#5 – Tomb of Jahangir (near Lahore, Pakistan)

Colorful and intricately tiled inside and out, the Tomb of Jahangir commemorates the life of Mughal emperor Jahangir. His son, Shah Jahan (remember him from the Taj Mahal?), built the mausoleum 10 years after Jahangir’s death. At the time of his rule (1605-1627), Jahangir was popular amongst his people, though a bit infamous for marrying 12 times and indulging in alcohol. With a walled garden and 98-foot-high minarets, the impressive structure also includes two entry gates and a white marble sarcophagus covered in its own delicate mosaics. For many, the Tomb of Jahangir is considered one of the most beautiful buildings in Pakistan!

Image of the Lenin Mausoleum

#6 – Lenin Mausoleum (Moscow, Russia)

Located in the heart of Moscow, the Lenin Mausoleum commands attention in Russia’s historic Red Square. Inside rests the mummified body of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin. What’s perhaps most interesting (and disturbing) about Lenin’s final resting place is that his sarcophagus is made of glass and is kept at a temperature of 61 °F (16 °C) and a humidity of 80 – 90%. Why? In order to ensure that Lenin’s body remains as lifelike as possible. In fact, a team of dedicated embalmers maintain the body, and his suit is typically changed every three years. While Lenin wanted a traditional burial beside his mother, Joseph Stalin ordered the display of Lenin’s body. Today, however, many Russians believe Lenin’s wishes should be honored and his body re-interred.

Image of the Hadrian Mausoleum, also called Castel Sant'Angelo

#7 – Mausoleum of Hadrian (Rome, Italy)

If you’ve ever visited Rome, you’re probably familiar with the Mausoleum of Hadrian (also called Castel Sant’Angelo). Both a castle and a fortress, the mausoleum houses the remains of many Roman emperors, including Hadrian, Marcus Aurelius, and most emperors from the High Empire. Built as a burial place for Hadrian and his family, the castle was once the tallest building in Rome! Situated on the Tiber River, Castel Sant’Angelo is made of brick and stone with a majestic statue of the Archangel Michael at its peak. Today, it stands as a remarkable addition to Rome’s collection of ancient and historic buildings.

Image of the Pantheon in Paris

#8 – The Pantheon (Paris, France)

Much like Westminster Abbey (also worthy of this list), the Paris Pantheon is both a church and a mausoleum. Commissioned by King Louis XV, its design combines the simplicity of gothic architecture with classical Greek elements. Inside, paintings depict the life of St. Genevieve (the patron saint of Paris) and the history of the French monarchy. Today, the Pantheon mainly serves as a final resting place for French heroes. Those laid to rest include Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Pierre and Marie Curie, Louis Braille, and Alexandre Dumas. Situated atop the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève, the Pantheon is a striking addition to the Paris skyline.

Image of Grant's Tomb in New York City

#9 – Grant’s Tomb (New York City, New York, United States)

As the largest mausoleum in North America, Grant’s Tomb testifies to the gratitude people felt for the man who ended the American Civil War. As the Commanding General of the Union Army and later President of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant endeared himself to the American people. After his death, approximately 90,000 people from around the world donated over $600,000 (roughly $18.4 million in 2023 money) toward the construction of Grant’s Tomb. It was the largest public fundraising effort of the time. With mosaics depicting key events of the American Civil War, the granite and marble tomb was completed in 1897. Over a million people attended its dedication ceremony. Today, the US National Park Service maintains the memorial and ensures that it is well-preserved.

Image of Tomb of Agamemnon, also called Treasury of Atreus

#10 – The Tomb of Agamemnon (near Argos, Mycenae, Greece)

Have you heard of the Tomb of Agamemnon (also called the Treasury of Atreus)? It’s perhaps the finest surviving example of a tholos or beehive tomb we still have from Mycenaean Greece. Built around 1250 BCE, it’s unknown whom the tomb was intended for or if it ever housed treasures. However, legend says that it was the final resting place of King Agamemnon. One of nine beehive tombs in the area, the doorway is 18 feet high (5.4 m) and tapers at the top (like a beehive). Inside, the tomb consists of two rooms, and the stonework throughout is decorated with bronze rosettes. The architectural skill and craftsmanship needed to build the tomb is impressive, and the tomb remains an important part of our historical narrative for Ancient Greece.

While such large tombs are now typically out of style, the need to honor and commemorate a loved one’s life still remains. That’s why it’s so important to consider a permanent memorial for yourself or a loved one. Whether it’s a headstone in a cemetery or a simple plaque on a cremation niche, it’s important to remember, to honor, to reflect. People matter, and we can keep their memory alive with loving physical tributes. To learn more about the value of permanent memorials, take a moment to read 5 Reasons to Establish a Permanent Memorial.

Beautiful spread of ingredients to bake a cake

Gravestone Recipes: Adding a Sweet Touch to a Memorial Marker

By Cemeteries, Explore Options, Memorial, Planning Tools

When planning a loved one’s funeral or memorial services, personalization is key to creating an event that is both healing and meaningful. The same is true when you’re considering what to include on a memorial marker (e.g., headstone, grave marker, etc.). But thankfully, there are a lot of ways to personalize a memorial marker, and one of them is bringing joy to people! What is it? Gravestone recipes!

What are Gravestone Recipes?

Memorial markers generally include the name, birth date, and death date of the person who has died. Often, the memorial marker also includes an inscription, like a sweet sentiment or kind phrase. However, some families have taken to personalizing the inscription in a new way – adding the recipe for that person’s most well-known dish.

Let’s look at a few examples!

Mom and adult daughter making cookies in the kitchen together, daughter learning from mother

Naomi’s Spritz Cookies

At a cemetery in Brooklyn, NY, Naomi Miller-Dawson’s memorial marker bears the recipe for her spritz cookies. While the memorial marker includes the ingredient list and no instructions, you can use the traditional method for spritz cookies to give you a good start on how to bake the cookies.


  • 1 cup butter or margarine⁠
  • 3/4 cup sugar⁠
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla⁠
  • 1 egg⁠
  • 2 1/4 cups flour⁠
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder⁠
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Kay’s Fudge

Before her death, Kay Andrews of Logan, UT, requested that her memorial marker include her go-to fudge recipe. A woman of encouragement, she often took fudge to friends and family as a gift of love and support. Thankfully, Kay’s family honored her request, and now, we all get to enjoy Kay’s fudge and remember her for her kindness.


  • 2 squares chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 cups white granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Pinch of salt


  1. Melt chocolate squares with butter on low heat.
  2. Stir in milk until incorporated and bubbling.
  3. Sift in sugar and salt.
  4. Add vanilla and stir.
  5. Continue stirring overheat until the mixture reaches 273 degrees F.
  6. Remove from heat and pour onto a marble slab.
  7. Chill for 3 hours or overnight.
  8. Cut and serve.

Mother and young daughter baking together, making memories

Mom’s Christmas Cookies

In Cascade, IA, a sweet remembrance marks the final resting place of Maxine Menster. When her husband and daughter wanted to add something special to Maxine’s memorial marker, they both thought of her cookies. Handed down through generations of family, Maxine made them every Christmas, leaving her home filled with the smell of freshly baked cookies and her family with precious memories.


  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup oleo (margarine)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup cream


  1. Cream the sugar and oleo.
  2. Add two beaten eggs and vanilla to the mixture.
  3. Mix flour, baking powder, and salt into separate bowl.
  4. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredient alternately with 1 cup cream.
  5. Chill and roll out with flour.
  6. Bake 350 degrees oven and frost.

Father and adult daughter making homemade bread together

Connie’s Date & Nut Bread

For registered nurse Constance Galberd, date & nut bread must have been an important part of saying she cared. Mother of three, Connie died in 2008 and was buried in Highland Mills, NY. While it might have seemed a small remembrance, who can really say how many people have been blessed by her date & nut bread long after her passing? It’s a personalization that keeps bringing joy even today!


  • 8 ounces dates, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts


  1. Pour boiling water (where 2 teaspoons of baking soda have been dissolved) over dates and raisins. Cool.
  2. Add 1 1/2 cups sugar and mix well.
  3. Add 2 eggs, well beaten.
  4. Gradually mix in 4 cups of flour and 2 teaspoons of baking powder. Beat thoroughly.
  5. Add 1/2 cup of chopped nuts. Beat thoroughly.
  6. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes to one hour.
  7. Bake in tin cans (one batch = 13 cans)*

*During the Great Depression (1929-1939), families often baked with tin cans. You can make this recipe using a regular loaf pan.

Father and young daughter baking together, holding a heart made of dough in their hands

What a Sweet Personalization

In so many ways, food is an integral part of many of our core memories. Grandma’s special cake. Dad’s famous BBQ. The family-famous trimmings that only come out at Thanksgiving or Christmas. We all have these special foods in our lives, and a lot of times, they are associated with a special person.

If you are looking for a sweet way to personalize the memorial marker of someone who loved spending time in the kitchen, a gravestone recipe inscription might be a good fit. That way, you and so many others can celebrate and appreciate your loved one’s life for years to come.

If you’d like more inspiration for personalizing a memorial marker, go 6 Ways to Personalize a Memorial Marker for ideas!

Can You Name the 4 Different Types of Cemeteries?

By Cemeteries, Explore Options, Memorial, Plan Ahead, Planning Tools

A cemetery is a cemetery, right? Well, to a degree, that’s true. However, there are actually several different types of cemeteries you should know about. Today, we’ll discuss the 4 main categories as well as some of the unique features that are available.

traditional upright headstones with flower arrangements

What are the 4 main types of cemeteries?

1. Public Cemeteries

Many cemeteries are public cemeteries. Often, they are the most affordable option. In short, a “public” cemetery simply means that anyone from the general public can inquire about purchasing a plot or niche. However, not all public cemeteries are run the same way.

Government-run public cemeteries

More than likely, a local government, like the city or the county, owns this type of public cemetery. Burial is open to anyone, and the local government maintains the grounds. However, they may not offer a full range of options and services.

Privately-run public cemeteries

On the other hand, privately-run public cemeteries are often owned independently or by a corporation. When you think of a cemetery, this may be the type that comes to mind most readily. They are commonly called “private cemeteries,” though they are open to the public. You can find them through the local funeral home, friends, or searching online. While the cost of a plot/niche may be higher, they also provide more services and options.

No matter which you choose, check on availability. In some cases, public cemeteries become full, sold out, or dedicated to those who die destitute (especially in the case of a government-run cemetery).

cemetery outside a beautiful old church

2. Private Cemeteries

Owned by individuals or businesses, true private cemeteries are not open to the general public. In fact, the owners have final say in who is allowed burial in a private cemetery. Let’s look at two primary examples of private cemeteries: family burial grounds and religious cemeteries.

Family burial ground

Very common in rural America in the 19th and early 20th centuries, a family burial ground is located on private land and designated for relatives only. Today, there are more regulations in place, but it is still a possibility. However, there’s one potential problem to consider: access. If land is sold, the family may no longer have access to the cemetery. Some states guarantee the family access to the cemetery, and other states do not. Therefore, make sure you understand your local or state laws before committing to a family burial ground.

Religious cemeteries

This type of private cemetery restricts availability to those of a certain faith or belief or even affiliation.

Examples include members of a certain:

  • Church
  • Fraternal/sororal group
  • Ethnicity
  • Lodge

In most cases, the organization owns the cemetery and only allows members to purchase a plot or niche. While there are a lot of religious cemeteries across the United States, each cemetery has its own rules. Because of that, some are more restrictive and others more inclusive. If you are interested in burial in a religious cemetery, start by talking with the organization most closely affiliated with it.

Veteran cemetery with white headstones and small American flags

3. Veteran Cemeteries

Have you heard of Arlington National Cemetery and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier? This beautiful cemetery is an iconic example of veteran cemeteries across the nation. For eligible active duty servicemen and women, veterans, and their dependents, both national and state veteran cemeteries are an option.

Maintained by the Veterans Administration, there are more than 100 veteran cemeteries in the United States. For those who are eligible, burial benefits are available. These benefits include a plot, opening and closing of the grave, perpetual care, a headstone, and military honors…at no charge. Some state veteran cemeteries charge a nominal fee, but the funeral home can contact the cemetery on your behalf to confirm.

tree with heart marker, representing natural burial

4. Green or Natural Cemeteries

The natural or green cemetery focuses on minimizing environmental impact and limiting the carbon footprint. While natural cemeteries have all the hallmarks of a standard cemetery, there are some notable differences.

They require the use of a biodegradable casket or urn. While embalming is not prohibited, it must be done without specific chemicals or avoided entirely. Instead of headstones, some cemeteries plant trees with minimal markers. For more information on green or natural burial, talk to your trusted local funeral home. They can answer your questions.

Do cemeteries have special features?

Yes, some cemeteries focus on a certain aesthetic. Let’s review a few examples.

Monument Cemetery – features traditional, upright headstones made of granite, marble, or stone; additionally, may include a designated area for flat memorial plaques

Memorial or Lawn Park – uses lawn-level granite or bronze memorial plaques; by using ground-level markers, they intend to promote natural beauty and decrease maintenance costs

Garden Cemetery – similar to a memorial park, except the design of the cemetery includes specific garden elements; for example, Mount Auburn Cemetery is the earliest known garden cemetery in the United States

Columbarium or Mausoleum Niches – while burial is an option for cremated remains, columbarium or mausoleum niches are also available at many cemeteries

Bench overlooking a cemetery on a beautiful day

Is there a cost difference?

Absolutely. The cost of cemetery good and services varies widely and depends on several factors, including:

  • Where you live
  • Type of cemetery
  • Type of burial
  • Location of the plot
  • Memorialization selections
  • Perpetual care fee

Let’s recap. First, public cemeteries are most likely to receive funding from the local government, so their costs are lower. Second, with private cemeteries, there will be fees associated with opening/closing the grave, perpetual care of the grounds, grave liner, headstone, and so on. Third, in most cases, burial in a veteran cemetery will incur little or no cost to you or your family. And lastly, a green or natural cemetery will likely cost less than a private cemetery because they don’t require certain items, such as a grave liner.

Ultimately, the decision of which cemetery to use is up to you and what’s available in your area. Your trusted local funeral home can give you all the information you need to determine what’s best for your needs and your family.

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