For National Cemetery or Public Cemetery Burial Benefits
VA Burial Benefits
Many veterans and their families are not aware that they are eligible for VA burial benefits and the rendering of military funeral honors upon the veteran's death. An eligible veteran must have been discharged or separated from military duty under conditions other than dishonorable and have completed the required period of service to receive burial benefits. Available burial benefits include:
- A gravesite in any of the 135 national cemeteries with available space
- Opening and closing of the grave and perpetual care
- Government headstone or marker
- A burial flag
- Presidential Memorial Certificate
These services are of no cost to the family.
Some veterans may also be eligible for additional burial allowances through the veterans adminstration. Also, with the signing of the National Defense Authorization Act in 2000, the law requires that, upon the family's request, every eligible veteran receive a military funeral honors ceremony**, to include:
- An honor guard with a least one member from the veterans' branch of service.
- A folding presentation of the United States burial flag.
- The sounding of taps.
The ceremony is of no cost to the veteran's family.
** an entitled honors ceremony is available regardless of the type or location of the veteran's burial site.
Reasonable Cemetery Access
One of the major challenges for rural veterans and their survivors is reasonable access to the Veterans Administration's 135 national cemeteries. The average driving distance for northern Michigan veteran's survivors to travel to a funeral ceremony or to visit a gravesite at a national cemetery is:
- 408 miles roundtrip to Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly, Michigan
- 471 miles to Ft. Custer National Cemetery in Battle Creek, Michigan
These significant distances create barriers to the survivors of some 70,000 veterans in northern Michigan, thus preventing or deterring veterans and their families from seeking their full entitled burial benefits. This often results in more financial burden on the surviving family members. There are currently no State of Michigan-funded veterans cemeteries open to burial services for the general Michigan veteran population at this time.
Veteran Burial Support in Northern Michigan
It is Project Cherry Tree's goal to secure support for a veterans' cemetery in northern Michigan (State, Tribal, or both) honoring all veterans. We will work with federal and state legislators, Native American Tribal leadership, federal and state governmental agencies, and our veteran service organizations to establish a geographically-centralized veterans' cemetery in northern Michigan. Establishment of this regional veterans' cemetery will reduce significant barriers to obtaining all entitled burial benefits for northern Michigan veterans. It will also honor their military service within a reasonable proximity to their families' home and remove unnecessary personal and financial burdens on their survivors.