Many people aren’t comfortable discussing their final arrangements, but it’s important to plan ahead. Briana Ballenger with Cook-Walden Funeral Homes, a Dignity Memorial provider, joined Studio 512 to talk about how to get the conversation started.

You have some tips to share regarding designing a final farewell that best pays tribute to someone’s life.

“It’s a conversation everyone needs to have. All of us from time to time, even in casual conversations with friends, have said something to the effect of, ‘When I die, I want XYZ.’ It’s obvious we all have our preferences.

“We plan for all of the big moments in our lives – weddings, births, college tuition. It’s important to plan for the end, too. A good question to ask yourself is ‘How do I want to be remembered?’ And then make your wishes known, so all of the important details are included in your final memorialization, whatever that may be.”

Funeral services continue to evolve. What information is helpful for family members to know when memorializing specifically a veteran?

“Our experienced team will listen to a family’s needs to understand what military protocols or traditions they would like to incorporate into their loved one’s service.

“We have found that many veterans of war do not always speak about their war stories with their families nor do they express their true feelings of how they would like to be memorialized.

“A funeral or cremation service should be personalized to reflect one’s wishes and should bring comfort to family and friends.”

What types of services are available for veterans?

“Veterans have made immense sacrifices for our country, and we take great pride in providing compassionate and dignified military funerals for those who have served in the armed forces.

“We are honored to handle military funerals, including assistance in securing veteran’s death benefits, coordinating with all branches of service to render military honors, and we work closely with veterans cemeteries.

“Our team of experienced professionals are dedicated to ensuring that every veteran is honored.”

You also think it’s important that veterans understand their burial benefits, right?

“Absolutely. As a veteran, you deserve the best this country has to offer, but you do need to understand what those burial benefits are. Sometimes, families of veterans believe the entire cost of their service is covered.

“Cook-Walden is honored to assist all veterans by offering a discount on services and merchandise provided. You can contact us to get more detail on the discount we have available.

“However, only under certain circumstances, such as when a serviceman or servicewoman is killed in the line of duty, does the VA pay all costs for a funeral or cremation.

“Here are some helpful tips families should know:

  • All veterans are entitled to receive a US flag; only 1 flag may be provided per veteran.
  • Veterans are entitled to receive military honors which includes the folding and presentation of the US flag and the playing of ‘TAPS.’
  • Lastly, all veterans that are honorably discharged are entitled to be interred at VA national cemetery, even when cremation is selected.
  • Be sure to secure a copy of your loved one’s DD-214 honorable discharge in a safe place with important documents.

“Our team at Cook-Walden Funeral Homes are knowledgeable on veteran’s burial benefits and can help explain everything you need to know. You can stop in or give us a call to find out more, but don’t get surprised. We’re here to help.”

What resources are available for people who want to find out more about VA burial benefits?

“We’ve developed our ’10 Important Facts About Your VA Burial Benefits,’ which is a free guide that helps families with the process. This guide has important facts to help plan your veteran’s burial — from eligibility requirements to the documentation required to verify military service.

What are some of the ways Cook-Walden Funeral Homes support veterans?

“Cook-Walden Funeral Homes hosts educational seminars for veterans throughout the year to learn more about their veteran’s benefits. You can contact us for more information on upcoming seminars to attend.

“In addition, Dignity Memorial offers a homeless veteran program, where we give a free military-style funeral to any homeless or indigent veteran in our community.

“Lastly, Dignity Memorial has created a replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall that travels amongst the country to give those who might never visit the nation’s capital an opportunity to experience the powerful memorial firsthand.”

It seems like there are many things to consider. What’s the best way for someone to start the planning process?

“Well, prearranging a service is an excellent time for families to discuss and make objective decisions calmly and rationally together, away from the pressures and stress that often occur at a time of sadness and loss.

“Sitting down with a funeral professional with family members is an opportune time to begin thinking about your wishes, learn more about veteran benefits available to you and it really opens the door to have conversations. You can contact us to set up an in-person or virtual appointment to start the planning process.

“By planning in advance and documenting your wishes, you can relieve emotional and financial burdens for your family in the future and ensure you plan a memorial that’s fitting for you and your family.”

To download your free fact sheet about VA burial benefits, visit

This segment is paid for by Cook-Walden Funeral Homes & Cemeteries and is intended as an advertisement. Opinions expressed by the guest(s) on this program are solely those of the guest(s) and are not endorsed by this television station.