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National Cemetery Administration



National Cemetery burial section with upright headstones decorated with miniature U.S. flags.

Thousands of patriotic citizens from around the country will honor the service and sacrifice of our nation's fallen heroes at VA national cemeteries on Memorial Day, May 30, 2016. Ceremonies can vary from cemetery to cemetery, and may include parades, speeches, music performances, rifle volleys, bugle calls and wreath layings. Veterans Service Organizations will participate as well as active duty military members, scout groups, government officials and patriotic citizens who wish to pay their respects to those who sacrificed so much for their country.

Some cemeteries hold their observances prior to May 30. View a complete list of 2016 Memorial Day Events at VA National Cemeteries.


Memorial Day Lesson Plan/Activity Guide

This Memorial Day, NCA has published an educators' guide - standards aligned and rich with primary resources - focused on the enduring commemoration of this federal holiday.

What's Inside

  • View our special collection of rare historic postcards to learn about early Memorial Day practices;
  • Draft a contemporary version of "General Order No. 11", issued in 1866, which inspired a national effort to honor war dead;
  • Explore digital resources to learn about the evolution of Memorial Day traditions;
  • Watch our video vignette (2:15) which provides a brief overview of the holiday

About Memorial Day

Though widely observed since the late 1860s, Memorial Day did not become a federal holiday until 1971. On this day, communities across the United States place American flags on graves of Veterans to memorialize all the Americans who have died in our nation's wars.

The scale of losses in the Civil War was such that every family and every neighborhood were touched by death. Those who survived felt a duty to honor the memory of the dead. After the Civil War, both sides took action to create formal rituals to honor and remember those who had lost their lives in the war, and both sides proposed annual holidays for this purpose.

The origins of Memorial Day date back to campaigns to remember soldiers who had died in the Civil War. Today, Memorial Day gives Americans a chance to remember all who have died while serving in the armed forces.

Getting the Guide

View, download, and print a Memorial Day lesson and activity guide as part of the Veterans Legacy Program.


U.S. Coast Guardsmen participate in a Missing In America Project ceremony at Quantico National Cemetery in Triangle, Virginia, June 2013.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) works with Veteran service groups, funeral industry partners, public administrators and other concerned citizens to ensure the dignified burial of unclaimed Veterans. "Unclaimed Veterans" are defined as those who die with no next of kin to claim their remains and insufficient funds to cover burial expenses. In addition to burial benefits already provided for deceased, "Unclaimed Veterans," VA will reimburse for the purchase of a casket or urn used to inter these Veterans in a VA national cemetery. VA will also process retroactive reimbursements in accordance with applicable regulations.


Presidential Memorial Certificate

The Presidential Memorial Certificate (PMC) is an engraved paper certificate, signed by the current President, to honor the memory of honorably discharged deceased Veterans.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) administers the PMC program by preparing the certificates which bear the current President's signature expressing the country's grateful recognition of the Veteran's service in the United States Armed Forces. Eligible recipients include the next of kin and loved ones of honorably discharged deceased Veterans. More than one certificate may be provided.

Eligible recipients, or someone acting on their behalf, may apply for a PMC in person at any VA regional office or by U.S. mail or toll-free fax. Requests cannot be sent via email. Please be sure to enclose a copy of the Veteran's discharge and death certificate to verify eligibility, as we cannot process any request without proof of honorable military service. Please submit copies only, as we will not return original documents.

Use VA Form 40-0247 to order the PMC.