United States Department of Veterans Affairs emblems for headstones and markers
The United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) maintains many cemeteries specifically devoted to veterans. Most have various rules regarding what must take place in order to be interred there.
The VA only permits graphics on government-furnished headstones or markers that are approved emblems of belief, the Civil War Union Shield (including those who served in the U.S. military through the Spanish–American War), the Civil War Confederate Southern Cross of Honor, and the Medal of Honor insignia. Arlington National Cemetery has similar restrictions on headstones, though it is maintained by US Department of the Army.
Generally the VA adds a new symbol a few months after receiving a petition from a faith group. However, the Wiccan symbol was only added in 2007 to settle a lawsuit filed on behalf of several families by Americans United for the Separation of Church and State in November 2006. A separate parallel lawsuit was filed on behalf of two Wiccan churches and three families by the American Civil Liberties Union in September 2006, which was resolved by the same settlement.
The first interfaith headstone, which includes a Wiccan pentacle for Jan Deanna O'Rourke and a Presbyterian Cross for her husband, was installed at Arlington National Cemetery on May 1, 2007, and dedicated on July 4, 2007.
Gravesites at Fort Logan National Cemetery, Memorial Day 2006
Headstone and marker symbols
The following emblems and emblem numbers are publicized as available for government headstones and markers as of February 2021. A process is in place to consider approving additional religious or belief system emblems requested by the families of individuals eligible for these headstones and markers.
Each emblem is given its official USVA name and designation, with added additional links for related symbolism (*) and for related movements (†).
USVA emblem 06
USVA emblem 07
Aaronic Order Church
USVA emblem 10
USVA emblem 13
USVA emblem 14
USVA emblem 19
Community of Christ
USVA emblem 20
USVA emblem 21
USVA emblem 22
USVA emblem 23
Church of World Messianity (Izunome)
USVA emblem 24
United Church of Religious Science
USVA emblem 25
Christian Reformed Church
USVA emblem 26
United Moravian Church
USVA emblem 27
USVA emblem 28
USVA emblem 29
Christian & Missionary Alliance
USVA emblem 30
United Church of Christ
USVA emblem 31
Presbyterian Church (USA)
USVA emblem 33
Izumo Taishakyo Mission of Hawaii
USVA emblem 34
Soka Gakkai International – USA
USVA emblem 35
Lutheran Church Missouri Synod
USVA emblem 38
New Apostolic Church
USVA emblem 39
Seventh Day Adventist Church
USVA emblem 40
USVA emblem 41
USVA emblem 44
USVA emblem 48
USVA emblem 53
Church of Nazarene
USVA emblem 54
USVA emblem 56
Church of God
USVA emblem 58
USVA emblem 59
USVA emblem 62
African Ancestral Traditionalist (Nyame Ye Ohene)
USVA emblem 63
USVA emblem 64
Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod
USVA emblem 66
Polish National Catholic Church
USVA emblem 67
USVA emblem 68
USVA emblem 69
African Methodist Episcopal (AME)
USVA emblem 71
Evangelical Lutheran Church
USVA emblem 72
USVA emblem 73
Some symbols' meanings are not immediately apparent; they are explained below.
- 57 — SANDHILL CRANE: the sandhill crane (Antigone canadensis) was used by Linda Campbell, the first homosexual soldier to receive burial rights for a same-sex spouse; it was said to symbolize "the ability of a soul to move between worlds, realms, times, traditions, and elements."
- 63 — AFRICAN ANCESTRAL TRADITIONALIST (Nyame Ye Ohene): an Adinkra symbol; the name is Akan for "God is King."
- 70 — SHEPHERD AND FLAG: Depicts a German shepherd and American flag
- 98 — FIVE-POINTED STAR: represents the Five Pillars of Islam
- Pennant (church)
- Religious symbolism
- Religious symbolism in the United States military
- United States National Cemetery System
- List of military tombstone abbreviations
- "Arlington National Cemetery > Funerals > Scheduling a Funeral > Headstones and Niche Covers > Government Headstone/Niche Covers".
White marble niche covers (15¾ x 11¼ x ¼) generally contain 11 lines of text with or without an optional emblem of belief.
- Banerjee, Neela (April 24, 2007). "Use of Wiccan Symbol on Veterans' Headstones Is Approved". The New York Times. Retrieved August 1, 2013. The VA added emblem of belief #37 – "WICCA (Pentacle)".
- "Veterans Affairs Department Must Accommodate Wiccan Symbol On Memorial Markers At Government Cemeteries, Says Americans United" (Press release). AU. June 8, 2006. Retrieved July 11, 2007.
- "Stewart v. Nicholson". AU. Retrieved August 5, 2013.
- "Veterans Denied Right to Post Religious Symbol on Headstones, ACLU Charges" (Press release). ACLU. September 29, 2006. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
- Goodstein, Laurie (September 30, 2006). "Pagans Sue on Emblem for Graves". The New York Times. Retrieved August 1, 2013.
- "Veterans Win Right to Post Religious Symbol on Headstones" (Press release). ACLU. April 23, 2007. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
- Blackwell, Christopher (2007). "A First Dedication at Arlington". Action. Retrieved August 5, 2013.
- National Cemetery Administration (2013-07-03). "Available Emblems of Belief for Placement on Government Headstones and Markers – National Cemetery Administration". Cem.va.gov. Retrieved 2013-08-24.
- Brownlee, John (July 9, 2013). "How Thor's Hammer Made Its Way Onto Soldiers' Headstones". Fast Company Design.
- Francis, Mike (July 1, 2013). "Coming to VA cemetery headstones: the Sandhill Crane". The Oregonian. Retrieved October 20, 2013. The VA added emblem of belief #57 – "Sandhill Crane".
- "Religious Design Gallery / 040-Islamic 5-Pointed Star". Family Bronze.
- Oregonian/OregonLive, Mike Francis | The (July 2, 2013). "Coming to VA cemetery headstones: the Sandhill Crane". oregonlive.
- "The Stories Behind The Symbols On Vets' Headstones". NPR.org.
- "VA Headstones Now Include Thor, Crane, Bicycle? – God and Country".
- Desk, News (October 16, 2020). "Families Express Grief After Gravesite Memorabilia is Removed".
- "VA Emblems of Belief Flashcards". www.flashcardmachine.com.
- Media related to Approved gravestone emblems of the United States Department of Veterans Affairs at Wikimedia Commons
- USVA National Cemetery Administration: Available Emblems of Belief for Placement on Government Headstones and Markers
- USVA Form 40-1330: Claim for Standard Government Headstone or Marker
- Arlington National Cemetery – Emblems