Private Headstone Markers
Arlington National Cemetery no longer accepts requests for new private (e.g. not government-provided) headstone markers, due to extremely limited space and interment challenges such as growth of trees, landscape and maintenance provisions, and safety concerns for families and staff.
Families that currently maintain a private marker, or foresee a secondary interment or inscription at Arlington National Cemetery, are reminded that they are responsible for the perpetual care of these headstones. Accurate commemoration of individuals on private markers is also the responsibility of the family.
For more information, please see the private markers fact sheet.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Why is ANC no longer accepting private markers?
A. All of the original 13 sections designated for private markers (PMs) have been filled (as of December 2017). There is no more space in the remaining sections designated for PMs. A PM requires more space for its foundation than a government-issued headstone, and care of the grounds necessitates additional space.
Q. Were only VIPs authorized to have a private marker?
A. No. Any veteran or family member was eligible to request a PM at a loved one’s time of need. Historically, during and after the Civil War, families that could afford a private marker would often choose a custom headstone as an emblem of honor and status; in the older sections of the cemetery, you will find large and often ornate headstones, many created by renowned artists. Today, however, headstones do not indicate rank or wealth. Indeed, government upright headstones mark the gravesites of four-star generals and Medal of Honor recipients.
Q. If a tree is removed, can a PM be reserved for that space?
A. When a dead or damaged tree is removed, an acceptable replacement tree will be planted to maintain the iconic look of cemetery grounds. Replacing trees is also important to maintaining the cemetery’s Level II arboretum status.
Q. Will there be space in the new sections of the cemetery?
A. No. Per Title 10 USC § 553.28, PMs are authorized only in sections of the cemetery where they existed prior to January 1, 1947. All new sections will consist of either government upright headstones or columbarium court/wall marble niche covers.
Q. What does it mean for a family to maintain the perpetual care of a PM?
A. Families are responsible for all maintenance of private markers, including repairs and any additional inscriptions. ANC will conduct minor routine cleaning of the marker and maintain the ground around it.
Q. Do PMs pose problems in the cemetery?
A. Most of the problems with private markers are errors in fact (incorrect dates, misspelled names) or damage to the stone or foundation. Errors were likely from the families ordering the markers, or mistakes made by memorial companies. These can impact identification of the decedent, as well as causing confusion in ANC's interment databases. Private markers can also become safety hazards if they are damaged or fall off of their foundations. Coordinating corrections and resolving safety concerns requires additional staff hours and resources.