How to Fly Your Own Flag Over the Tomb of the Unknown Solider

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Chris Raymond

The men and women who put their lives on the line to defend our freedoms deserve the thanks of a grateful nation, and everyone who reaps the benefits of the freedoms that these brave men and women fight to preserve and protect should likewise express gratitude for their service and sacrifice. This article explains how you can fly, and later present, your own commemorative American flag over the Tomb of the Unknowns (also known as the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier) in Arlington National Cemetery in honor of deceased military personnel.

Arlington's "Flag Flying Request" Program

Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, is the premier cemetery for military veterans in the United States. Established in 1864 during the U.S. Civil War, more than 400,000 active-duty service members, veterans, and their families now rest within the cemetery's hallowed grounds, and Arlington performs approximately 35 funeral services each week for U.S. veterans who qualify for this benefit of service.

Perhaps lesser known among the many services Arlington provides, however, is the cemetery's "Commemorative Flag Flying Request" program. Not restricted to military veterans or their families, individuals may send an American flag to Arlington National Cemetery that will fly over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (also known as the Tomb of the Unknowns). After its return, this flag offers a meaningful way to honor or remember a member of the U.S. Armed forces, regardless of his or her branch of service, or any person/organization deserving of this tribute.

How to Request an Arlington Commemorative Flag

First, you must submit your request in writing via FedEx, UPS or U.S.P.S. to this address:

Arlington National Cemetery
c/o Commemorative Flag Flying Request
Arlington, VA 22211-5003

With your written request, you must also provide your name, mailing address, telephone number and, if available, your email address. (Unfortunately, Arlington National Cemetery does not allow requests via email or an online submission form.)

You also need to indicate the name of the person and/or organization for whom you want the flag flown. If he or she is/was a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, then you should also provide his or her rank and branch of military service, e.g., Army, Navy, Coast Guard, etc.

Next, you need to send an American flag with your written request. Acceptable sizes include: 3'x5', 4'x6', 5'x8' or 6'x10'. You may send this package to Arlington National Cemetery via FedEx, UPS or U.S.P.S. (using first-class postage or Priority Mail).

Finally, you must also provide a "self-addressed return package with pre-paid postage for returning the flag." While Arlington National Cemetery's instructions are slightly unclear, you should assume that you need to create/send a complete shipping-paid* envelope/box with your American flag. In other words, you need to initially provide a return package into which someone at Arlington only needs to place your flag, seal the package and then ship it back to you.

* Per Arlington, if you use UPS for your return shipment, your prepaid shipping label/package must also include "the charges for picking up the package from Arlington National Cemetery," as well as the cost to return the package to you.

What You Will Receive

According to Arlington National Cemetery, you will receive your flag after it's flown over the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier within three weeks of its receipt. Given the number of services Arlington provides every day, however, you should probably allow additional time.

In addition, you will also receive a certificate indicating the date on which your flag was flown above the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the name of the individual/organization you honored by this thoughtful gesture. Both of these items can provide a memorable, meaningful tribute to a veteran or a surviving family member.

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