New York State Funeral Directors Association

Some people voice their wishes when discussing what will happen with them after they pass away.

It’s hard to consider doing anything but what they asked.

But some have been placing ashes at the Vietnam Veterans National Memorial in Washington, D.C.

There are better places for the remains of veterans.

The Washington Post reported the ashes of 70 veterans have been left at this monument since it was dedicated in 1982.

And after more than three decades, nearly a half-million items have been left there: handwritten letters, medals from veterans’ tours of duty, clothing and pins, badges and jewelry.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, the nonprofit that built the wall, has been cataloging all the items left behind there.

You can see photos of much of this collection on the VVMF’s website – and many of these tributes and memorials will be on display in a museum they’re planning.

The remains of veterans, however, aren’t going to a museum. They’re sitting in storage, far from the remains of other veterans who endured the hardships of war in Vietnam thousands of miles away from home.

A lot of work goes into memorials for veterans – and for final resting places where many of them are interred.Veteran Cemetery View

So it might be helpful for family members – and veterans themselves – to learn about the dignified sites that have been established for interring the remains of veterans, alongside fellow veterans.

Representatives from existing efforts – like the Patriot Guard Riders of NY Veteran Recovery Program and the nationwide Missing in America Project – have been canvassing funeral homes trying to confirm veteran status and get the ashes of veterans out of storage for years.

These are, in most cases, veterans striving to make sure their fellow veterans aren’t forgotten but are instead memorialized as they should be.

Ashes shouldn’t be left alongside a piece of granite or dropped gingerly on a sidewalk – it’s akin to leaving them abandoned to some unknown fate.

Setting them near a monument only to have them collected and placed in some dark, unheralded storage cabinet is the wrong way to go.

Not too long ago, the Patriot Guard Riders of NY held a ceremony to memorialize and properly inter the remains of eight “forgotten” veterans in Gerald B. H. Solomon Saratoga National Cemetery.

They found their ashes stored in funeral homes – left by family who forgot or passed away or didn’t realize those ashes should be collected by family members.

They found some family members of these veterans and brought them to the ceremony.

Military honor guards conducted their time-honored ceremony. And at the end, the urns of ashes were placed respectfully in a columbarium next to their fallen brothers and sisters.

For people in New York State who have had the discussion with a veteran – and for those who haven’t but are thinking about it, here are some important details describing how and where Americans memorialize their veterans.


Arlington National Cemetery – where millions visit the Tomb of the Unknowns each year – is a burial site for veterans near the Nation’s Capital. It is the final resting place for more than 400,000 service members.

Veterans and family members can learn more about making this the final resting place of their loved one right on the cemetery’s website.

For those who call New York State home and would consider a final resting place closer to home, there are three national cemeteries in New York State – Bath National Cemetery near the Finger Lakes; Calverton National Cemetery in Long Island; and Saratoga National Cemeteries in Upstate New York.

All three have space for interments – both of urns and caskets, according to the National Cemetery Administration.

The Long Island National Cemetery, in Long Island; and the Woodlawn National Cemetery, in Elmira both have respectful places to inter the ashes of veterans.

In the U.S., most veterans are eligible for burial and memorial benefits that include burial in National Cemetery, headstones or markers, Presidential Memorial Certificates, Military Funeral Honors and Burial flags, among other benefits.

For those looking to stay even closer to home, many local cemeteries have a military section – these are worth exploring as well.

Deciding what to do after a veteran passes away is clearly difficult for family and friends.

But discussing it beforehand can head off doing wrong when its seems like the right thing to do.

New Yorkers struggling with questions on what to do with the ashes of a veteran can turn to the Patriot Guard Riders of NY’s Veteran Recovery Program.


Washington Post article about the ashes of veterans being left at the Vietnam Memorial

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund website article about items left at the memorial wall

Video of memorial ceremony at Saratoga National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery Website

National Cemetery Administration webpage on NY Cemeteries

NYSFDA Article Outlining Veterans Benefits

Patriot Guard Riders of NY Veteran Recovery Program web page


EdsPhotoEdward Munger Jr.
Communications & Social Media Specialist
NYS Funeral Directors Association

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