Do you have a deceased Veteran in your family whose memory you’d like acknowledged by your fellow countrymen? If so, you may want to apply for something I just learned about—a “Presidential Memorial Certificate.”
The engraved memento, which is free of charge, honors the memory of an honorably discharged deceased Veteran and is signed by none other than the President of the United States. Pretty cool, I think to have a document engraved with both your ancestor’s name and the signature of the current POTUS on an official U.S. document recognizing his military service to our country!
The program began in 1962 under President John F. Kennedy and has been continued ever since. It’s administered by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Eligible recipients include the next of kin and loved ones of the honorably discharged. Best of all, you can request more than one certificate for distribution to other family members.
Applications may be made in three ways: in person at any regional VA office; by U.S. mail, or toll free by fax. (Requests by email are not an option.) What you’ll need to apply are a copy of your Veteran’s honorable discharge and a death certificate to verify eligibility. (Copies of the above are perfectly acceptable, so keep your originals at home as they will not be returned.)
With plenty of new proof of two great-grandfathers in the Union Army, it was a minor task for me to pull out the appropriate documents from their military pension records, copies of which I obtained last fall at the National Archives in Washington. The form (VA Form 40-0247) was simple—only half a page—and painless too, with just five blanks to fill in and a place for your signature. I attached my records proving Honorable Discharge for each of my Civil War patriots and was off to the mailbox with my request.
Pretty simple—all you’ll need to do then is wait for the mailman to show up with your personalized certificate. (Of course, you can always start looking for a nice frame for your document so you can prominently display it when it arrives.)
Here’s how one of my certificates will read when it arrives:
The United States of America
Honors the Memory of
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.
If you’re interested in learning about how to obtain a Presidential Memorial Certificate for the patriot in your family here’s the link with the application form to do so: http://www.cem.va.gov/pmc.asp
Pat Biallas is the author of Pursuing the Past, a monthly column in The In-Depth Genealogist about navigating different media outlets to learn about the past. She can be found blogging at Genea Journeys.
© 2012 Patricia Desmond Biallas