Military Tombstones

A Guide to Symbols, Acronyms & Abbreviations Found on Military Tombstones

Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia USA
Image Source/Getty Images

For many, the first introduction to an ancestor's military service is at the cemetery when they discover a flag or military marker next to their ancestor's grave, or an unknown acronym or image carved on the stone.

Common Military Abbreviations

United States - Military Abbreviations - Ranks, Units & Awards
Australia - Military Abbreviations & Terminology
Canada - Military Abbreviations, Terms and Meanings
Germany - Glossary of Germany military terms and abbreviations

Tombstone Symbols May Indicate Military Service

Flag - liberty and loyalty. Often seen on military markers.
Stars & Stripes around an Eagle - Eternal vigilance and liberty. Often seen on U.S. military markers.
Sword - often indicates military service. When found on the base of the stone might indicate infantry.
Crossed swords - May indicate a military person of high rank or a life lost in battle.
Horse - May indicate calvalry.
Eagle - courage, faith and generosity. May indicate military service.
Shield - Strength and courage. May indicate military service.
Rifle - often indicates military service.
Cannon - generally indicates military service. When found on the base of the stone it may indicate artillery.

Acronyms for Military Groups & Veterans Organizations

CSA - Confederate States of America
DAR - Daughters of the American Revolution
GAR - Grand Army of the Republic
SAR - Sons of the American Revolution
SCV - Sons of Confederate Veterans
SSAWV - Sons of Spanish American War Veterans
UDC - United Daughters of the Confederacy
USD 1812 - Daughters of the War of 1812
USWV - United Spanish War Veterans
VFW - Veterans of Foreign Wars

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Your Citation
Powell, Kimberly. "Military Tombstones." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Powell, Kimberly. (2020, August 27). Military Tombstones. Retrieved from Powell, Kimberly. "Military Tombstones." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 3, 2023).