Whether you have any ancestors buried at Arlington National Cemetery or just have toured this magnificent place outside of Washington, D. C.; you might not have been aware of the different sections of the cemetery and especially the meanings behind the symbols on the white headstones.
The military issued headstone does list the name of the deceased, the years of birth and death, and branch of service. Families may request, at the government’s expense: military grade, rank or rate; war service (such as “World War II”); months and days of birth and death; an emblem reflecting one’s beliefs; valor awards received; and the Purple Heart. Not all headstones bear a religious emblem.
Religious symbols: Of course the different religious symbols such as the Latin Cross (or one with a circle around it), the Star of David, Buddhist symbol, Native American Indian, Hindu, Muslin and Shinto to name a few. There are about 60 different approved religious symbols across Arlington.
Some early graves are in Section 27, some 3,000 located at the north end of Arlington Cemetery. Here are citizen and civilian headstones marking the burial sites of poor freed men, women and children who were interred in Arlington National Cemetery at the government’s expense after the Civil War (1865). There is also 1,500 graves of soldiers in the United States Colored Troops. Their graves are marked with the initials U.S.C.T.
The first military serviceman buried in Section 27 was Private William Henry Christman, of the 67th Pennsylvania Infantry, was interred in Arlington National Cemetery on May 13, 1864. He had died of the measles at Lincoln General Hospital on Capitol Hill.
For military symbols, the Civil War Union shield is available for those who served in the Civil War fighting the Union, or for those who served in the Spanish-American War. Within the shield is the arched name of the deceased and his abbreviated military organization. The dates of birth and death are listed below. The top for Union soldiers is rounded.
The Confederate soldiers buried in Arlington, the Confederate Southern Cross of Honor is inscribed at the top above the arched name, military organization and dates of birth and death. To provide an obvious distinction of Confederate graves, Confederate headstone tops are pointed. New headstones for the Confederate soldiers placed in the early 20th century.
For Medal of Honor recipients they are eligible to have the insignia for that honor carved into their marker. Even military personnel who are buried at sea, or their remains are donated to science, or the cremated remains are scattered, there is an option for a memorial marker.
All headstones are paid for the Federal government. Any type that is larger or a different style, the additional costs are paid by the family.
Arlington National Cemetery is open every day, year-round. Using Find A Grave for Arlington Cemetery, you can search for any ancestors buried there.
Photos: Native Indian marker for headstone, Army Capt David Groff Everhart with the Latin Christian cross and nearby his daughter LT Nan Everhart Kershaw with the Lutheran cross (Plot: Section 10, plot 10623 shown on top of headstone).
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