Should You Change Your Family Member's Headstone/Marker, Or Add A Medallion?

Posted on: 11 January 2019

For families of deceased veterans, recognition of the person's service can be a comforting reminder of how the person chose to live his or her life. Many veterans who are buried in private cemeteries have military headstones or markers. However, if your relative was buried with a regular, private headstone or marker, you and your family may eventually decide you'd rather there be a military version in its place to permanently note the person's service. Yet changing an entire headstone or marker can be quite a process -- and it overlooks one more option that may be just as satisfactory.

Changing the Headstone or Marker 

Whether the grave has an upright headstone or a flat marker, the processes to change these are similar. You have to get the cemetery personnel involved; you can't do the work yourself. You'll also have to wait until after very cold weather has passed as you won't be able to have the stone changed if the ground is frozen.

It is obviously best to have the military marker ready when the old marker is removed. Talk to the funeral home and cemetery management first to find out how they need to proceed with replacing the stone. Then order the military marker; you may need to provide proof of the person's service. As using military markers in private cemeteries is common, the funeral home should be able to coordinate receiving the new stone and installing it.

Footstone Options

Occasionally a cemetery (or the person's family) will decide not to remove the old stone but to add a footstone instead. This policy varies by cemetery; many do not allow footstones, which are essentially second headstones. However, if you can install a footstone, it may be cheaper to do that because you no longer need to remove the original headstone or marker.


There is one more option that is also the cheapest and fastest way to get military recognition onto the person's gravestone. That's the medallion, a bronze marker that you can get in varying sizes and for different services. These have the word "Veteran" plus the branch of the military engraved on the front. They are also available in different types, such as a Medal of Honor medallion. These are affixed to the existing stone, so they are cheaper, smaller, and easier to obtain. They may be the best way of marking the person's grave as that of a veteran. These medallions are available from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

No matter what you choose, the end result will show that the person at rest in that spot has served in the military honorably. Start now and contact your preferred funeral home and cemetery to make arrangements.