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Honoring Life at Arlington Cemetery

More than 400,000 individuals have been laid to rest in Arlington Cemetery. While the cemetery itself is symbolic of honor and gratitude, selecting the right veteran funeral flowers can make for an elegant sign of respect and remembrance.  In this article, we discuss what to expect from a burial at Arlington Cemetery. We also explain how Helen Olivia Flowers, a family-owned florist, can help. Continue reading to make an already difficult situation more manageable.

Can All Veterans Get Buried at Arlington Cemetery?

Arlington Cemetery holds anywhere from 25 to 30 funerals for honored veterans every weekday and slightly fewer on Saturdays. They also have an extensive waitlist for services.

If you want to plan a funeral at Arlington Cemetery, you should start by ensuring the deceased loved one is eligible for burial. Due to limited space, high demand, and tradition, not every veteran is eligible for burial at this renowned cemetery.

Which Veterans Are Eligible?

To learn whether your loved one needs veteran funeral flowers sent to Arlington Cemetery, you have to decide which type of service you want for your loved one. There are two main types of services at Arlington Cemetery, the first is interment and the second is inurnment.

Interment is another word for burial and refers to a casket or tomb used to lay a loved one to rest. Inurnment is the placement of an urn with cremated remains. At Arlington Cemetery, inurnment occurs at the columbarium.

Requirements for Inurnment

If you’re unsure of your loved one’s eligibility for burial at Arlington Cemetery, we recommend considering inurnment first. The eligibility requirements for inurnment are much less strenuous than those for interment.

Any member of the military or armed forces is eligible for inurnment at the columbarium as long as they received an honorable discharge from service. This includes those on duty for training only.

Requirements for Interment

There are far more complexities involved with interment at Arlington Cemetery. These are especially honorable services for the brave men and women of the armed forces. With the right local florist, this can be one of the most beautiful ways to remember a fallen loved one.

The first set of criteria for internment includes an honorable discharge if the individual was not currently on active duty. The list below details the other requirements of the soldier’s passing/military history:

  • Died on federal active duty
  • Died during retirement from active duty AND eligible for retirement pay
  • Received certain military decorations
  • Former prisoner of war who died on or after November 30, 1993
  • Held elected office within United States government and served on active duty
  • Former United States presidents who served on active duty

The above-referenced military decorations include the Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, Distinguished Service Medal, Silver Star, or Purple Heart.

Family of Veterans

The government of the United States recognizes the importance of burying loved ones together. For that reason, certain family members of military personnel are also eligible for interment at Arlington Cemetery.

For a family member to be buried at Arlington Cemetery, their service person must meet the above criteria. They must also be members of the service person’s immediate family, such as dependents and spouses.

What is Planning a Funeral for a Veteran Like?

Planning any funeral is emotional and overwhelming. From organizing the care of the loved one’s body to finding the right family-owned florist, it’s a stressful process.

This responsibility and stress are only exacerbated for military services at Arlington Cemetery. The burial timeframe is dependent on many factors including eligibility, cemetery resources, and military resources.

Making decisions as far in advance as possible will make an already difficult task easier to manage. Even if you can’t prepare, having an idea of what you need to do can make things feel slightly easier. Read on for all the details Helen Olivia Floral Design will help you with in planning your veteran’s funeral service.

Decide What to Schedule

While Helen Olivia Flowers can help you decide on the most appropriate sympathy flowers for the service, you have to first decide which service to schedule. This includes internment, inurnment, and/or chapel service.

For the best experience possible, it’s important to get organized. While difficult for some, it’s worth considering discussing a service person’s wishes before their passing to make the process as simple and honorable as possible.

Decide When to Schedule

Since you can never fully prepare for a loved one’s passing, finding the right time to schedule a burial service at Arlington Cemetery is challenging. It can be especially difficult if you have a specific date in mind.

The website for Arlington National Cemetery recommends providing a minimum notice of 4 months prior to your desired date for interment. While services occur Monday through Saturday, there are no military honors offered on Saturdays.

Military Honors

Before calling the cemetery, you should learn about eligibility and preferences for military honors. The standard military funeral honors include a casket team, a firing party, a bugler, and the folding and presentation of the American flag.

Military members of certain ranks or those who have received certain honors are eligible for other honors and elements in addition to the standard funeral honors. These elements include a funeral escort, a riderless horse, and more.

Gather Documents

Once you’ve determined eligibility and made all of your decisions, you need to gather all the necessary documentation. Make sure you have the right information before you call to schedule the burial service in order to keep the process simple.

It’s important to wait to order veteran funeral flowers from your local florist until after providing these documents to Arlington Cemetery and scheduling the burial service.

What You Need

In order to schedule, you’ll need to acquire the documents and details listed below:

  • Service document showing honorable discharge and active duty service
  • Death Certificate
  • Cremation Certification (if applicable)
  • Succession documents

If the deceased is being laid to rest with a family member already buried in Arlington Cemetery, you’ll need additional information. This includes the section and grave number for in-ground gravesites and the equivalent information for other burial locations.

What Are the Estimated Wait Times?

Besides eligibility, one of the most common questions about burial services at Arlington Cemetery is about wait times. There are no set wait times for interment since there are a number of factors to consider.

Traditionally, the types of remains, available resources, and family preferences are the main factors. However, add-on services and an influx of requests due to the COVID-19 pandemic can add on additional time.

A service involving cremated remains with military honors and a funeral escort may take up to 11 months to schedule. If a chapel service is desired, this can take an extra 1 to 2 months to accommodate.

Are There Any Exceptions?

When it comes to waiting times, priority is given to certain fallen soldiers under certain circumstances. Services for active-duty service members are given the highest priority.

One of these exceptions is made for those active duty service members in current conflict who’ve died in action or as a result of their wounds. These can be accommodated within two weeks of the date of the soldier’s death.

What is the History of Arlington Cemetery?

Approximately 400,000 individuals are currently buried on the roughly 639 acres at Arlington Cemetery. However, the cemetery started much smaller when it started as a living memorial to George Washington. At the time, it was only 200 acres in size.

Army Seizure

The Arlington estate remained in the family of George Washington Parke Custis, George Washington’s adopted grandson, until the start of the American Civil War. In May of 1861, it was seized by the United States military.

The estate was ideal as a defensive base due to the property’s elevation. It provided a better range for military artillery.

First Military Burial

Just three years after the military seized the property came the first military burial in 1864. After this day, Brigadier General Montgomery Meigs declared the estate Arlington Cemetery.

The cemetery was to be segregated based on race and rank for over 100 years. It was finally desegregated by President Harry Truman in 1948.

Burial Status and Honor

Today, funerals at Arlington Cemetery are elegantly decorated with veteran funeral flowers from a family-owned florist. While these ceremonies are highly respected, being buried at this cemetery wasn’t always the honor that it is today.

It once served as a cemetery for soldiers whose families couldn’t afford a proper burial. The government thought it important to give these men and women the respected service they deserved. Eventually, officers started requesting burial at the cemetery in the 1870s.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

In 1921, during World War I, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was dedicated. The remains of unidentified American soldiers were interred at Arlington Cemetery.

This was a way to honor the sacrifice made by all unknown fallen soldiers and their bravery. In 1926, soldiers began keeping watch over the tomb during daylight hours. In 1937 and to this day, the tomb is guarded 24/7.

Presidential Burials

With elaborate sympathy flowers and courageous servicemen and women, services at Arlington Cemetery have become a highly revered tradition. For this reason, it’s surprising that only two United States presidents rest here.

The first president buried at Arlington was President William Taft in 1930, followed by President John F. Kennedy in 1963. After President Kennedy’s service, requests for burials spiked.

Which Flowers Are Appropriate for a Veteran’s Funeral?

If you’re planning a veteran’s funeral, deciding on the right flowers may feel daunting. It may be especially cumbersome if you’ve never planned or attended a veteran’s service before.

The good news is that you can trust your local florist, such as Helen Olivia Flowers, to handle the veteran funeral flowers for you. Although, it’s still important to understand the symbolism behind their choices.

Any flower that is acceptable for a civilian funeral is acceptable for a military funeral. However, there are some flowers that hold a stronger meaning at these types of ceremonies. The Helen Olivia Flowers team understands the meanings behind these, and are here to help you make wise decisions for what to include in your sympathy arrangement.


While poppies are an uncommon choice for sympathy flowers in civilian funerals, they hold special meaning in military funerals. They become symbols of respect for soldiers during World War I thanks to the poem, ‘In Flanders’ Fields.’

In the poem, red poppies grew unexpectedly between the graves of fallen soldiers on an otherwise barren battlefield. These are a thoughtful choice for fallen active-duty soldiers. They signify new life and hope even in the darkest of times.


Carnations are a thoughtful and durable choice for any funeral. Their wide array of colors complements any arrangement of veteran funeral flowers.

Light and dark shades of red are especially thoughtful for soldiers. These colors symbolize distinction, honor, love, and affection. These are some of the most moving sentiments you can offer to a fallen soldier before laying them to rest.

Pink carnations are another significant choice when honoring a fallen soldier. As any family-owned florist will tell you, they’re the perfect way to show gratitude for a soldier’s service and sacrifice.


Roses are one of the classic funeral flowers as they symbolize love. Red roses are a great choice for patriotic arrangements from your local florist. Combine these with white carnations and blue hydrangeas for a completed look.


There are very few true-blue flowers to choose from when creating patriotic sympathy flowers. One of these options is hydrangeas. Their full appearance and symbolism of perseverance are the perfect marriage with white carnations and red roses.

Floral Sprays and Wreaths

If you want to achieve a traditional, yet elaborate and elegant aesthetic for your fallen soldier, consider asking your florist at Helen Olivia Flowers about a funeral standing spray or funeral wreath flowers.

You can select a casket or standing spray for the service. The casket spray lays directly on top of the casket while the standing spray is supported by an easel.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that if the American flag is to be draped on top of the casket, you should not plan on using a casket spray. Instead, opt for a standing spray.

Creating An Honorable Service with Helen Olivia Flowers

Arlington Cemetery is one of the best places to lay an honorable service member to rest. With the right veteran funeral flowers and the right local florist, you can create something truly special for your fallen soldier.

For last-minute sympathy arrangements, get same-day flower delivery in Arlington or same-day flower delivery in Washington DC from Helen Olivia Flowers.

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