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Honoring Our Fallen Heroes: Korean War Veterans Memorial

By Memorial, Veterans

In steel and granite, water and earth, the creators of this memorial have brought to life the courage and sacrifice of those who served in all branches of the Armed Forces from every racial and ethnic group and background in America. They represent, once more, the enduring American truth: From many we are one.” – President Bill Clinton at the Korean War Veterans Memorial Dedication Ceremony on July 27, 1995

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.

Korean War Veterans Memorial

The Korean War Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C. was dedicated on July 27, 1995, and was constructed to honor and memorialize the 5.8 million Americans who served in the Armed Forces during the Korean War (1950-1953). During its three short years, the Korean War claimed the lives of 36,574 Americans. Additionally, 103,284 Americans received wounds during the conflict.

The memorial also recognizes 22 members of the United Nations that contributed both troops and medical support throughout the war.

How It Came to Be

Congress received a petition for a Korean War memorial, and on April 20, 1986, they signed it into law. Under the guidance of the Korean War Veterans Memorial Advisory Board, Cooper-Lecky Architects designed the memorial. They, in turn, employed several designers to complete plans for the memorial.

President George H. W. Bush conducted the groundbreaking ceremony on June 14, 1993. Just two years later, on July 27, 1995, President Bill Clinton and Kim Young Sam, President of the Republic of Korea, officially dedicated the memorial. The dedication day was significant because it marked the 42nd anniversary of the armistice that ended the war.

Significant Features of the Memorial

Located in West Potomac Park, just southeast of the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial makes a lasting impression on those who view it. On the dedication stone, these words appear:

Our nation honors her sons and daughters
who answered the call to defend a country
they never knew and a people they never met.

There are several prominent features to the memorial, each one significant and intentional.

Mural Wall

The memorial is built in the form of a triangle, with the tip intersecting the Pool of Remembrance. One side of the triangle is the mural wall, designed by Louis Nelson. Made of polished black granite (164 feet long, 8 inches thick), the mural wall consists of 41 different panels with over 2,400 photographs from the Korean War sandblasted onto the granite. The images selected represent Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard personnel and their equipment.

19 Stainless Steel Statues

If the wall doesn’t command your attention first, the 19 stainless steel statues displayed within the walled triangle will. Designed by Frank Gaylord, each figure stands more than seven feet tall and weighs nearly 1,000 pounds. Together, the statues represent a platoon on patrol and all Armed Forces branches are present (Army – 14; Marine Corps – 3; Navy – 1; Air Force – 1). Dressed in full combat gear, they stand amidst strips of granite and juniper bushes, which represent Korea’s rice paddies.

The mural wall stands nearby, and due to the granite’s reflective quality, there actually appear to be 38 soldiers reflected on its surface. The soldiers represent the 38 months of the war and the 38th parallel, which still forms the border between North and South Korea.

The Pool of Remembrance

At the head of the triangle sits the Pool of Remembrance, a shallow pool lined in granite and surrounded by trees and benches. Nearby, engraved granite blocks pay tribute to the lives affected by the war.

Dead — United States: 54,246*, United Nations: 628,833

Wounded — United States: 103,284, United Nations: 1,064,453

Captured — United States: 7,140, United Nations: 92,970

Missing — United States: 8,177, United Nations: 470,267

United Nations Wall

On the north side of the statues is the United Nations Wall. This wall lists the 22 United Nations members who contributed both troops and medical support to the war effort.

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 demonstrates our honor and respect for those who have died.

For many of our veterans, a large-scale memorial honors the group as a whole, as is the case with Korean War veterans and the Korean War Veterans 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.

Want to Get Involved?

In 2016, President Barack Obama authorized the installation of a Wall of Remembrance at the Korean War Veterans Memorial. The Wall of Remembrance will specifically name the 36,574 Americans who lost their lives during the war. Funding is coming in from private donations. If you would like to help with this effort to honor veterans of the Korean War, please visit www.koreanwarvetsmemorial.org.

*In 2000, 5 years after the memorial’s dedication, it was discovered that a clerical error had been made and the total 54,246 included deaths that occurred outside the Korean War theater. The correct number is 36,574.

Honoring Our Fallen Heroes: Vietnam Veterans Memorial

By Memorial, Veterans

Our nation honors the courage, sacrifice and devotion to duty and country of its Vietnam veterans.”

– Inscription on the Memorial Wall at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

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.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Dedicated on November 13, 1982 (Veterans Day), the Vietnam Veterans Memorial exists to honor the courage, sacrifice, and devotion of our American men and women who served in the Vietnam War (Nov 1955 – Apr 1975). Of the 3 million people who died during the conflict, more than 58,000 were Americans. The memorial not only honors the memory of those who died in hostile encounters but all those who served. This includes those still considered missing and the women who served as nurses.

There are three main parts to the memorial: The Memorial Wall (November 13, 1982), the Three Soldiers (November 11, 1984), and the Vietnam Women’s Memorial (November 11, 1993).

How it Came to Be

In April 1979, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund was established with the intent to fund a memorial for Vietnam veterans. Jan C. Scruggs, a wounded Vietnam veteran himself, began the call for a memorial, saying that it would help bring healing to the roughly 3 million Americans who served in the war. Within three years, private donations raised $8.4 million, which included contributions from more than 275,000 Americans.

In July 1980, Congress chose and authorized a site for the memorial. In order to determine the memorial’s design, several federal agencies arranged a competition. By March 30, 1981, they received more than 1,400 submissions. For the sake of fairness and anonymity, no names accompanied the entries. Each entry had an assigned number. In the end, it was entry number 1,026 that won – a woman named Maya Lin.

Due to some controversy surrounding Lin’s design (some thought it too greatly resembled a large tombstone), it was decided to commission Frederick Hart (another design competition entrant) to create a more traditional sculpture. This is how The Three Soldiers came to be. The dedication for The Three Soldiers took place on November 11, 1984, two years after the Memorial Wall.

On November 11, 1993, the Women’s Vietnam Memorial dedication took place. It was designed by Glenna Goodacre to honor the women of the United States who served in the Vietnam War.

Significant Features of the Memorial

Memorial Wall

The Memorial Wall consists of two long, granite walls (246 feet long, 9 inches deep), each polished to a high sheen to create a mirror effect. Each wall possesses 72 panels (144 panels total), each etched with the names of servicemen. When you look at the wall, you can see your own reflection as well as the etched names. This was Maya Lin’s way of symbolically bringing the past and the present together.

At its dedication, the wall listed 57,939 names, but as of May 2018, there are 58,320 names, including eight women. The number of names on the wall differs from the official numbers because some families requested the omission of a veteran’s name. The etched names include all service members declared dead (not necessarily killed in action) as well as those whose status is unknown (missing in action).

Listed in chronological order, the listed names are based on the date of their casualty. Oftentimes, visitors create a rubbing as a memento of their loved one. They place a piece of paper over a name, and using a crayon or pencil, transfer the inscription to paper.

The Three Soldiers

Located a short distance from the Memorial Wall, the more traditional bronze statue of three soldiers stands. At the time of its selection, some people disapproved of the memorial wall’s design. Due to dissenting opinions, The Three Soldiers was commissioned to add a more traditional element. Frederick Hart created the statue that now stands.

The Three Soldiers depicts men who represent the ethnic groups most heavily involved in the war’s combat forces – a Hispanic man, an African American man, and a Caucasian man. From their final placement, it appears as if the three men are looking at the Memorial Wall, as if giving silent tribute to their fallen comrades.

The Women’s Vietnam Memorial

Added at a later date, the Vietnam Women’s Memorial honors the thousands of women who served during the Vietnam War, mostly as nurses. Designed by gifted sculptor Glenna Goodacre, the statue depicts three uniformed women with a wounded soldier.

Diane Carlson, a former Army nurse, first advocated for a memorial to recognize the women’s contribution to the war effort. After ten years, Presidents Reagan and Bush approved the memorial. The dedication took place on November 11, 1993. The addition of the Women’s Vietnam Memorial marked the first establishment of a memorial in the nation’s capital to recognize the patriotic service of women.

“In Memory” Plaque

Established on November 10, 2004, the “In Memory” plaque is a final notable feature of the memorial. Placed near The Three Soldiers, the plaque honors veterans who died after the war as a direct result of injuries suffered in Vietnam but who are not eligible for placement on the Memorial Wall (per Department of Defense guidelines). This includes those who died from PTSD-related illnesses, Hodgkin’s and Parkinson’s, exposure to chemicals like Agent Orange, and cancer.

Made of black granite (2 feet tall, 3 feet wide), the inscription reads: “In memory of the men and women who served in the Vietnam War and later died as a result of their service. We honor and remember their sacrifice.”

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. Permanent memorials are important for five key reasons.

  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 demonstrates our honor and respect for those who have died.

For many of our veterans, a large-scale memorial honors the group as a whole, like the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. However, headstones, grave markers, or inscriptions set in place by their families honor them as individuals. Both types of memorialization are important and honoring to our veterans and our loved ones.

Foreground: American flag backlit by the sun. Background: a grouping of American flags.

Helping Veterans

In 2017, as part of the 35th anniversary commemoration of the memorial, all 58,282 names were read aloud in the days just prior to Veterans Day. Volunteers, Vietnam veterans, family members of fallen Vietnam veterans, and employees of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund began reading the names early in the week and only took a break between midnight and 5 a.m. Every five years, a group of volunteers read aloud each person’s name. This tradition remembers each person individually and honors them specifically.

If you would like to support our Vietnam veterans, consider partnering with Vietnam Veterans of America, an organization that offers veterans services and outreach programs for Vietnam veterans.

Honoring Our Fallen Heroes: The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

By Memorial, Veterans

Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God.” – Inscription on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Memorial Day is a day set aside every year to honor and remember the many men and women who have died while serving our nation. 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.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Lasting from July 1914 to November 1918, more than 4 million Americans served in World War I. In the end, more than 8 million soldiers across the world died in the conflict, with over 116,000 of them being American. Thousands of soldiers remained unidentified at the end of the war, and in 1920, the United Kingdom dedicated its own Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In the following year, the United States, France, and Italy all dedicated their own memorials to the unidentified dead of the war. To this day, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is the most hallowed grave at Arlington Cemetery.

How It Came to Be

On March 4, 1921, Congress approved the burial of an unidentified American soldier to honor the unidentified dead of the war. In November, four unknown soldiers were exhumed from the four World War I American cemeteries in France. U.S. Army Sergeant Edward Younger, a decorated veteran, selected one of the caskets at random to be taken to Washington, D.C., for burial at the memorial. Once in the United States, the unknown soldier lay in state at the Capital from his arrival on November 9 until Veterans Day (then called Armistice Day). An estimated 90,000 people came to pay their respects during his time at the Capitol. On November 11, 1921, President Warren G. Harding officiated the interment ceremonies at the memorial.

Eventually, the remains of unidentified soldiers from World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War would join their World War I compatriot in nearby interment locations marked with white marble slabs. However, in 1998, DNA testing identified the unknown Vietnam soldier. After his identification, the family received his remains. The Vietnam crypt remains vacant to this day, though an inscription was added, which says, “Honoring and Keeping Faith with America’s Missing Servicemen.”

Significant Features of the Memorial

When it was first constructed, the memorial did not include the rectangular, white marble sarcophagus that we now associate with the memorial. Instead, a simple marble slab covered the tomb’s opening. It was always intended that a structure sit atop the crypt, but it wasn’t until July 1926 that the funds were authorized. Then, in 1929, Lorimer Rich and Thomas Hudson Jones’ design was approved, and construction officially began.

The Tomb

Using Yule marble quarried from Marble, Colorado, the tomb consists of seven large pieces. It is flat-faced with neoclassic columns. Sculpted onto the east panel are three Greek figures, symbolizing peace, victory, and valor, commemorating the spirit of the Allies. And on the north and south panels, six inverted wreaths are sculpted, symbolizing mourning and representing the six major campaigns in World War I fought by Americans: Battel of Ardennes, Battle of Belleau Wood, Battle of Chateau-Thierry, Meusse-Argonne, Aisne-Marne, and the Battle of the Somme.

Perhaps most remembered is the inscription on the western panel, which reads:

Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God

Tomb Guards

Perhaps as well known as the tomb itself are the Sentinels, or the tomb guards. It is considered one of the highest honors to serve as a Sentinel at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Additionally, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Guard Identification Badge is the second least-awarded qualification badge in the U.S. military (the first least-awarded is the astronaut badge).

Since 1948, all of the Sentinels have come out of the 3rd Infantry Regiment, or “The Old Guard.” While they are guarding the tomb, the Sentinels do not wear rank insignia. By doing this, they will never outrank the Unknowns. The Sentinels command silence and respect at the tomb and will confront visitors who cross the barriers of the tomb or display loud or disrespectful behavior.

While they are actively guarding the tomb, the Sentinels “walk the mat” and follow a meticulous routine:

  1. March 21 steps south down the 63′ long, black mat laid before the tomb
  2. Turn and face east, toward the tomb, for 21 seconds
  3. Turn and face north, change weapon to outside shoulder, and wait 21 seconds
  4. March 21 steps down the mat
  5. Turn and face east for 21 seconds
  6. Turn and face south, change weapon to outside shoulder, and wait 21 seconds
  7. The routine repeats until the changing of the guard

The number 21 is significant because it symbolizes the highest military honor that can be bestowed – the 21-gun salute.

Since 1937, guards have watched over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The Sentinels must meet the highest standards of behavior for their entire lifetime. If they do anything throughout their lifetime to disrespect the tomb, they risk their badge. While the Sentinels are usually male, three women have held the honored post.

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.

  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 remembers and respects the dead.

For many of our veterans, a large-scale memorial honors the group as a whole, as is the case with the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. However, headstones, grave markers, or inscriptions set in place by their families honor them as individuals. Both types of memorialization are important and honoring to our veterans and our loved ones.

How You Can Help

While all of our World War I veterans have died, we can still remember them and honor their sacrifice. Wreaths Across America takes donations throughout the year, and every December, they lay a wreath of remembrance on the grave of as many veterans as possible. You can sponsor a wreath or volunteer to distribute them at cemeteries across the United States and beyond. Whatever you choose, sponsoring a wreath is a touching way to remember those who gave so much to our nation.

Honoring Our Fallen Heroes: World War II Memorial

By Memorial, Veterans

It is altogether fitting and proper that we gather this weekend [Memorial Day weekend] and in this place to memorialize the people, places, and events that forever changed the course of history and turned back a rising tide of tyranny – when the fate of the free world hung in the balance.”

– President George W. Bush at the World War II Memorial’s Dedication Ceremony on May 29, 2004

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.

World War II Memorial

The World War II Memorial was dedicated on May 29, 2004, and was constructed to honor and memorialize those brave Americans who served in the Armed Forces and as civilians during World War II. More than 16 million people served in the United States Armed Forces during World War II, including more than 400,000 who gave their lives to the cause. While the conflict began in Europe in 1939, the United States did not enter the war until 1941, after the attack on Pearl Harbor. In the ensuing years, many Americans applied themselves diligently to the war effort, and ultimately, with many allies across multiple countries, emerged victorious.

How It Came to Be

It took several years for the memorial to become a reality. In 1987, World War II veteran Roger Durbin first approached a U.S. Representative about the construction of a memorial for World War II veterans. It took a few years, but in 1993, the Senate approved the request. Soon after, President Bill Clinton signed the World War II Act into law. After the Act passed, it took several years to raise funds, finalize blueprints, and construct the memorial.

Significant Features of the Memorial

Located along the National Mall in Washington, D.C., directly between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument, the World War II Memorial stands in stately grace at the former site of the Rainbow Pool. Prominently displayed nearby, an announcement stone declares:

Here in the presence of Washington and Lincoln,
one the eighteenth century father and the other the
nineteenth century preserver of our nation, we honor
those twentieth century Americans who took up the struggle
during the Second World War and made the sacrifices to
perpetuate the gift our forefathers entrusted to us—
a nation conceived in liberty and justice.

Consisting of 56 pillars, two small triumphal arches, a square, and a fountain, the World War II Memorial was opened to the public on April 29, 2004, and officially dedicated on May 29, 2004.

Surrounding a large pool are granite columns representing each U.S. state and territory at the time of World War II. Additionally, two triumphal arches labeled “Atlantic” and “Pacific” represent the two war fronts.

Perhaps the most striking feature of the memorial is the Freedom Wall. The wall displays 4,048 gold stars, representing the ultimate sacrifice paid by more than 400,000 Americans. Each star represents 100 Americans who lost their lives during the conflict. In front of the wall, an inscribed stone fittingly states, “Here we mark the price of freedom.”

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. This is the case with World War II veterans and the World War II 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.

Want to Get Involved?

If you would like to help veterans visit Washington, D.C. and the memorials dedicated to their service and sacrifice, consider joining Honor Flight Network in making their mission a continued reality. Since 2005, Honor Flight has flown 180,261 veterans to Washington, D.C., and their important work continues.

Also, the Friends of the National World War II Memorial, founded in 2007, is “dedicated to honoring and preserving the national memory of World War and to creating the next ‘Greatest Generation’ of tomorrow.” To learn more about their mission, visit www.wwiimemorialfriends.org.

The Importance of a Memorial Tribute Video

By Explore Options, Meaningful Funerals, Memorial, Planning Tools

The death of someone loved changes our lives forever. And the movement from the ‘before’ to the ‘after’ is almost always a long, painful journey. From my own experiences with loss as well as those of the thousands of grieving people I have worked with over the years, I have learned that if we are to heal we cannot skirt the outside edges of our grief. Instead, we must journey all through it, sometimes meandering the side roads, sometimes plowing directly into its raw center.”  – Dr. Alan Wolfelt

At the beginning of every healthy grief journey is a healing, meaningful, and personalized funeral service. As you plan a funeral, consider how you can make the experience one that meets the emotional needs of family and friends left to mourn. The more personal a funeral service is, the more meaningful it will be, and one of the most important ways you can personalize a funeral is through a tribute or memorial video.

How Tribute Videos Can Bring Comfort and Healing

Captures the uniqueness of a lost loved one

First and foremost, a tribute video is an excellent way to capture the uniqueness of the one you love. You have the opportunity to share their life story – the daily moments, the milestones, and the people who made it all worthwhile. You can use photographs, video clips, audio recordings, favorite quotes, and more to make the video a fitting tribute to your loved one. By doing this, you draw others into your loved one’s life story and stimulate their own memories.

Adds a meaningful element to the service

Dr. Wolfelt tells us that “funerals are most meaningful when they are personalized tributes to the unique life and relationships of the person who died.” A video tribute allows you to personalize the funeral service. You can use favorite songs to accompany the photos, video clips, and other features you choose to utilize. This is an opportunity to invite mourners to engage with their emotions, remember your loved one, and acknowledge the pain of loss.

Allows everyone time to reflect on their memories

Not only does a tribute video showcase the uniqueness of your loved one and provide a meaningful element to the funeral service, it also allows mourners to reflect on their own memories. This is an important aspect of making a funeral a healing experience. As Dr. Wolfelt stated, “we cannot skirt the outside edges of our grief…we must journey all through it.” A tribute video opens the door for others to reflect on and engage with their own memories.

Comforts surviving family members and friends

A tribute video can offer comfort in much the same way that a treasured possession, an article of clothing, or a photograph would. Just as we may have a go-to book or movie when we want to be comforted or feel close to someone or something, a video can serve a similar purpose. In those moments when you need to feel close to your loved one, to see their face, to remember their life, you can watch the video as you grieve their absence.

Doubles as a keepsake for family and friends

Practically speaking, a tribute video makes a simple but meaningful keepsake for family and friends. At some services, the attendees are invited to take a token in remembrance of the one who has died. This action allows each mourner to feel strongly associated with the one they have lost. By giving a tribute video as a token, you provide an opportunity for them to continue to explore their feelings of loss and relive their cherished memories even after the funeral.

Offers a way to share your loved one’s life with future generations

Lastly, a tribute video provides a way to share your loved one’s life with future generations. You will likely have children and grandchildren who will want to know about your life and the people you loved who have already gone. When the questions arise, a tribute video can supplement the tales that you tell and give them a picture in their minds of the life your loved one lived. This may be an especially important exercise for children who’ve lost a parent.

Whether you decide to utilize a tribute video or not, you can plan a meaningful and healing funeral. The tribute video is just one way that you can personalize a funeral. For more ideas on how to personalize a funeral, take a moment to read 6 Ways to Personalize a Funeral. This article will give you some ideas, but only you know the best way to create something truly beautiful that reflects your loved one’s life, values, relationships, and ideals.

5 Reasons to Establish a Permanent Memorial

By Cemeteries, Explore Options, Memorial, Planning Tools

When we lose someone we love, our feeling of connection to them continues, even though they are no longer with us physically. It is this connection that contributes to our feelings of loss, that makes it so difficult to process death and move toward healing and reconciliation. And today, as cremation continues to rise as a preferred method of final disposition, one very important element of the healing process is being forgotten: the need for a permanent memorial.

In some areas of the United States, there has been a significant increase in the number of families that keep the cremated remains of a loved one in their homes. While this is not bad in and of itself, it may create unforeseen difficulties down the road. Unfortunately, it is not unheard of for cremated remains to be misplaced, accidentally knocked over and spilled, or even found in the trash or unknowingly donated to thrift stores.

That said, here are 5 reasons why you should consider establishing a permanent memorial for yourself or a loved one:

1. It provides a place for people to mourn.

By establishing a permanent memorial, you provide a place to mourn. If a loved one dies, and one person keeps the cremated remains, it may be difficult for other family members to find a place to go to remember and honor their lost loved one. After all, everything that remains of the person may be inaccessible without inconveniencing the one who possesses the ashes. A permanent memorial allows any person access to the one who has died. Because everyone grieves in different ways and at different rates, a specific place is beneficial for individual grief journeys.

2. It gives all mourners (not just family) access to pay their respects and connect with the one who has died.

Additionally, a permanent memorial provides an established location for non-family members to mourn. For example, if the best friend of the person who has died wants to connect with them, to talk with them, they may have no place to go where they feel as strong a connection as a permanent memorial would provide. In this same vein, it’s not uncommon to see permanent memorials for those who have died due to acts of violence or vehicular accidents. We do this because we have a need to remember, to remind, and to honor the life lived.

3. It provides a permanent place that will exist for generations to come.

Cemeteries, mausoleums, or cremation gardens will exist for many years to come. The oldest maintained cemetery in the United States is in Massachusetts, where several voyagers from the Mayflower are buried. People show great interest in their origins, and because of this curiosity, cemeteries will receive visitors consistently. They provide a permanent place for families to reconnect with their ancestors, even those who died long before they themselves were born.

4. It is practical for the family.

Dr. Alan Wolfelt, a nationally-known author, speaker, and grief expert, tells us that establishing a permanent memorial is a practical choice for the family. “Families can rest easy knowing that the cremated remains [of their loved one] are being taken care of in perpetuity. …Having to pass along urns to the next generation or amassing more and more urns on a shelf…is not a viable long-term solution.”

5. It ensures respect for the dead.

Keeping the cremated remains of a loved one at home can be an important part of the healing process. It all depends on what the mourner needs. But, out of respect for the one who has died, to ensure that nothing unfortunate happens to them when you are gone, it’s best to consider how you can permanently memorialize them. Dr. Wolfelt puts it this way, “It’s about respect for the dying and the dead. Permanent memorialization is one of the most important ways in which we as a culture can ensure that respect [is carried out] ….”

It’s perfectly fine to wait to set up a permanent memorial. For some, it’s necessary to have a loved one nearby during the healing process. But, in three, five, or even ten years, consider the benefits of setting up a permanent memorial. It will ensure that your loved one is cared for long after you are gone.

11 Meaningful Ways to Honor Your Loved One’s Ashes

By Cremation, Memorial, Plan Ahead, Planning Tools

If you are considering cremation, whether for yourself or for a loved one, it’s important to think about all the options available to you. As a term, “final disposition” refers to the body’s final resting place. It is important, no matter which option you choose, to decide on a permanent resting place for a person’s body. If traditional burial is chosen, the body is placed in a casket and respectfully interred in a cemetery. When cremation is selected, because there are many additional options, the decision isn’t quite so simple.

If you are looking for meaningful ways to honor the cremated remains of a loved one, this list may give you some ideas on where to start. Some are popular options; others are a little out of this world. Keep in mind that a loved one’s ashes can be divided so that some are used for one purpose and the rest for another. As you review this list, put careful consideration into your decision. Remember, it’s important to give family members and future generations a place to return to as they search for meaning. Many people desire to have a place to return to for a time of reflection.

1. Burial

Typically, a cremated body is buried in either a plot (grave) or in an urn garden. Cemeteries can often accommodate either request. If you purchase a plot, most cemeteries will allow you to bury the cremated remains of multiple people in one plot, if you desire. One thing to remember: if you do purchase a plot, you will likely need to purchase an urn vault as well. By placing the urn in an urn vault, you protect it from the pressure of the soil. Also, in the event that the urn begins to deteriorate, the vault will keep the soil around it in place, protecting the cremated body inside. Regarding urn gardens, some cemeteries have an area dedicated to the garden while others inter the remains in the landscaping, perhaps in a fountain or a bench.

2. Columbarium

An above-ground structure, the columbarium functions expressly as an interment location for cremated remains. It is filled with niches (wall spaces) in which urns are placed and interred. A bronze plaque with an epitaph will be placed on the exterior of the niche.

3. Scattering

Scattering is the act of taking a loved one’s ashes to meaningful places and scattering them. This could be by the ocean, in the mountains, specific countries or places. If you want to scatter your loved one’s ashes in a special place, make sure that you are following all the laws and regulations associated with that place. If you decide to scatter all of a loved one’s ashes, take time to prepare yourself emotionally. For some, it is a shock to realize that everything remaining of a loved one is literally gone.

Another option is a scattering garden. This is a designated, beautiful space often attached to a cemetery. The scattering garden is simple and environmentally friendly. If you select a scattering garden, the cemetery often provides a means of adding a permanent physical marker so that family and friends feel more connected to the lost loved one.

A final option for scattering is an ossuary. An ossuary is a community resting place for cremated remains, often underground, with a memorial plaque nearby. It is often a less expensive option.

4. Keeping the Ashes at Home

More people are beginning to keep the cremated body of a loved one at home. Most often, the family selects an urn to house the ashes. This option is definitely viable, but something to consider if you decide to keep the ashes at home: make sure that you indicate in your will what should be done with the cremated body when you die. After your own death, whoever handles your estate may not know about your loved one’s urn and may dispose of it unknowingly. So, if you do keep a loved one’s cremated body in your home, make sure that you communicate a plan for their care after you are gone.

5. Cremation/Memorial Jewelry

Another popular option is to place a small amount of a loved one’s ashes in cremation jewelry. Often cremation jewelry design includes a small interior space (like a locket) where the ashes are placed. You can choose from various styles, metals, and types (e.g. necklaces, rings, pendants, etc.).

6. Planting Ashes

It is now possible to plant a loved one’s ashes so that a memorial tree will grow. The tree does not actually grow because of the cremated body. Instead, you will place a special, biodegradable urn in the ground. In the top section, seeds and soil mix together. There is a separate section underneath for the ashes. First, the seeds grow in the soil, and once they reach a certain level of growth, the roots spread down the ashes, and everything mingles together. There are a number of companies that specialize in this practice, if you are interested.

7. Under the Sea

There are now options available at sea. One option is to have a special urn placed in an underwater mausoleum (similar to a columbarium). Another option is to mix the cremated body with concrete to create an artificial coral reef. These artificial coral reefs assist in the repair and conservation of natural coral reefs by having a positive impact on the ocean’s habitat. As a memorial to your loved one, consider affixing a plaque to the artificial reef. Also, in many cases, it’s possible to be present as the reef is placed in the ocean.

8. Launched into Space

Interestingly enough, it is now possible to send a person’s ashes into space. If your loved one adored space and all its mysteries or was always looking for the next big adventure, you might consider this option. Of course, there will be regulations and stipulations to follow, but it is an option available to you.

9. Stained Glass or Hand-Blown Glass Keepsakes

Another possibility is to have the ashes of a loved one infused with glass to create beautiful pendants, paperweights, orbs, and other glassware. During the creation process, layers of hot glass encase the ashes. The process fuses the two (glass and ashes) together permanently. As with memorial jewelry, this option requires only a small portion of the cremated body.

10. Pressed into a Diamond

A growing trend is to forge a cremated body into diamonds, which are made of crystallized carbon. This is possible because the second most abundant element in the human body is carbon. After the diamond-making process is complete, the family can create memorial jewelry or other items of significance to remember someone loved.

11. Hour Glass

Essentially, this is exactly what it sounds like. Rather than purchasing an urn, you can purchase an hour glass for a loved one’s ashes. They come in many shapes, sizes, and colors, and you can mix in colored sand if you want. They also have the added benefit that you can choose to place a specified amount of ashes in the hour glass and then place the remainder somewhere else, such as in an urn or scattering garden.

As you can see, there are many ways to honor the cremated body of someone dearly loved. The most important thing now is to determine which will be the most meaningful for you and your family. And keep in mind – these are only some of the options. There may be something else out there just right for you.

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