You’ve been working hard researching your Civil War ancestor haven’t you? With all the information you’ve found you’re overwhelmed with his sacrifice. You track down where he is buried to pay your respects to your family hero and find he doesn’t have a headstone! No headstone! True story! It happened to me.
My g-g-grandfather George W. Lowery was a private with the 81st Pennsylvania. He fought bravely with his regiment from 19 July 1864 to 7 April 1865 where he was wounded at the Battle of Cumberland Church. Thankfully he survived his injuries, moved to Ohio, fathered three more children and is buried in a small country cemetery about 45 minutes from my home.
I was truly surprised to find his wife, my g-g-grandmother has a headstone, and is even listed as the wife of G.W. Lowery on the headstone, but his name is not engraved there. My g-g-grandmother preceded him in death by a year so perhaps the kids never got around to adding his name. So sad.
Now enter my genea-buddy sister who attended a workshop to find that the Department of Veterans Affairs will provide a headstone, at no charge, for the unmarked grave of any deceased eligible Veteran in any cemetery around the world, regardless of their date of death.
No kidding? My sister and I hopped on over to the Dept. of Veterans Affairs website. We read the explanation. We read the small print. We studied the application. We were all in.
The first thing we did was contact the township trustees of our veteran’s cemetery. The cemetery was still in use but we wanted to make sure we could add a headstone to the older section, where our ancestor was buried. The township trustee sent us to the cemetery’s sexton who searched his records and verified our g-g-grandfather was buried there, without a headstone.
Next we checked out the local monument company. We needed a place for our new headstone to be delivered and the cost for a footer and the ground work that had to be done. The folks at the monument company were very nice and surprised us when they said that they set veteran’s headstones like this frequently. Who knew? My sister and I split the cost of the footer and ground work, two more sisters pitched in with some money when they learned of our project too.
We filled out our application choosing the white marble monument most recognized as a Civil War veteran. We needed the signature of a township trustee, lined up the monument company to receive the headstone and sent off our application.
That was in February 2010. Due to a glitch when we filled out the application, our first headstone was lost. Our bad. We still don’t know where it is today but the Dept. of Veterans Affairs ordered another one and it was delivered to the monument works by September, just seven months after sending in our application.
The monument works poured our footer in early summer so the headstone was set soon after its delivery. Our g-g-grandfather had his own headstone honoring his military service before the anniversary of his death on October 22, 1902.
My sister and I visit the cemetery somewhat regularly. We are so proud of our g-g-grandfather and so happy we had a chance to honor him.
If you have any questions about a free military headstone for a family member be sure to check the website of the Dept. of Veterans Affairs. Or leave me a message in the comments. I’ll do whatever I can do to help.