Order of Military Personnel’s Names on a Memorial
Our veterans association is placing a headstone in a cemetery for 13 armed services personnel who perished in a crash after takeoff from Wake Island in 1977.
What is the correct order for listing the names of deceased crew members? Do we list them in descending order from the highest ranked officer to the lowest ranked enlisted, alphabetically by rank/rate, or alphabetically by last name?
They definitely have to be ‘in order’. The order you choose will show your view of the individuals listed.
The rules of precedence would dictate that names be listed in precedence order by rank: high to low
Sometimes they acknowledge the ‘crew’ aspect. If you look at WW1 memorials, they are often officers first – in order first by rank & then by date of rank if there is more than one with the same rank. Then a second list of enlisted personnel in order by rank.
This contrasts with what you see at the 9-11 Memorial at the Pentagon. There they were both armed services and civilian deaths in both the Pentagon and on the plane. They might have chosen to put them in order by rank, armed services personnel first, then civilians, last. This might be correct ‘by-the-book’ based on established precedence lists.
But that not what they did. They put them in order by their age the day of the crash — youngest first – oldest last. How could anyone disagree that the death young child should not be first?
Thus, the order selected sends a statement of the organizer’s view of those remembered in the memorial.
#1) Alphabetical by family name is defendable — in keeping with the idea that everyone is equal in death.
#2) Since all were armed services personnel — rank order is defendable — reflecting the hierarchy within the group.
So, I throw it back to you: Which does your committee prefer?
– Robert Hickey How to Write a Name on a Tombstone, Name on a Gravestone Gravemarker, Headstone, Monument