Honoring Our Troops: Presidential Memorial Certificates

Discover a great way to memorialize a deceased U.S. military veteran for free

Presidential Memorial Certificate
The official Presidential Memorial Certificate issued in honor of the author's grandfather, who served in World War II. (Name obscured deliberately.). Photo © Chris Raymond

The men and women who put their lives on the line to defend our freedoms deserve the thanks of a grateful nation. Among the ways our country shows its appreciation for these sacrifices is by providing burial and memorial benefits to current and former members of the U.S. Armed Forces. This article explains how you can memorialize a deceased military veteran by obtaining a free presidential memorial certificate, which offers a meaningful way to honor a military veteran on Memorial Day, Veterans Day or at any other time of year.

The Certificate
Since 1962, when President John F. Kennedy's administration instituted the program, the federal government has issued presidential memorial certificates in recognition of the service and sacrifice made by the men and women who served in the U.S. Armed Forces, upon their deaths, at no charge to the recipient(s). Printed on thick, marbled paper, each presidential memorial certificate includes the Great Seal of the United States embossed/engraved in gold, the name of the deceased veteran, and the following text:

The United States of America honors the memory of [Veteran's Name]

This certificate is awarded by a grateful nation in recognition of devoted and selfless consecration to the service of our country in the Armed Forces of the United States.

Beneath this text appears the signature of the current U.S. president.

Obtaining the Certificate
Every deceased veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces who received an honorable discharge from active service is eligible for the presidential memorial certificate program.

Receipt of this document is not automatic, however, following the death of a veteran. Family members, next-of-kin or any loved one of the deceased must formally request a certificate.

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) administers the program, and the VA website provides a form (40-0247) that you must fill out (see below for a direct link) to request issuance of the certificate.

In addition to the completed form, you must also provide a photocopy of the veteran's official discharge document and a photocopy of the veteran's death certificate in order to prove his or her eligibility. (Do not send the original documents! The VA will not return this paperwork.) Generally, you should include a photocopy of the veteran's "DD-214" form, also known as the "Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty." Every branch of the U.S. military has used this form since 1950, and the DD-214 is generally sufficient to determine a veteran's eligibility. (For other acceptable discharge forms, please see the link below.)

Once you have filled out the request form and made photocopies of the military-discharge document and the death certificate, you may submit the paperwork via the U.S. mail, via a toll-free fax number or in-person at any VA regional office. The official request form provides the mailing address; see the links below for ordering via fax machine or locating a VA regional office.

Author's note: While applying for a presidential memorial certificate is relatively easy, the wheels of government grind slowly so don't expect your certificate to arrive quickly. After submitting the necessary paperwork in November 2012, it took more than three months to receive a certificate honoring my grandfather for his service in World War II (shown above). That said, it's worth the wait and you should definitely order more than one at a time so you can share.

If you're looking for a meaningful way to honor a military veteran on Memorial Day, Veterans Day, some other personally significant date or at any other time of year -- and regardless of whether you want to keep the certificate yourself or present it as a meaningful gift to someone you love -- the U.S. federal government's presidential memorial certificates provide a fitting, dignified method of expressing your appreciation for this country's military veterans.

Relevant Links for Presidential Memorial Certificates:
Presidential Memorial Certificate Request Form
Veterans Military Discharge Documents
How to Order a Certificate via Fax Machine
Locations of VA Regional Offices (by state)

You Might Also Enjoy:
Veterans Death, Burial & Memorial Benefits
How to Apply for Military Funeral Honors
10 Ways to Honor a Deceased Vet on Memorial Day
10 Ways to Honor a Soldier on Veterans Day

Sources:
"Presidential Memorial Certificates." National Cemetery Administration. Retrieved May 19, 2015. http://www.cem.va.gov/cem/pmc.asp

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