Lake County Ohio GenWeb

Military Grave Marker Abbreviations

Portions of this article written and submitted by Cynthia Turk, first appeared in the January 2002 issue of LakeLines, the newsletter of the Lake County Genealogical Society.

Many graves are marked with stones or bronze plaques available free from the Veterans Administration for veteran graves. The Civil War and some Spanish American War markers are upright marble with a shield shape around the inscription. These usually only have the name, rank and unit on them. A few have a death date, most do not. Some of the abbreviations common in Lake County are listed below. A more exhaustive list can be found at the Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War site at Another web site which has a search engine for military abbreviations is

Civil War Ranks Common in Lake County

PVT Private
PVT 1CL Private First Class
LT Lieutenant
CPT Captain
1 LT First Lieutenant
MAJ Major
SGT Sergeant
CPL Corporal
COL Colonel
BGEN Brigadier General
BUGL Bugler
DRUM Drummer
HOSP Hosptal Steward
MUS Musician
QM Quartermaster
SURG Surgeon
WAG Wagoner

Civil War Unit Abbreviations common in Lake County are listed below. They are in a form similar to "105th Ohio INF" or "105 O.V.I."

INF Infantry
OVI Ohio Volunteer Infantry
OVC Ohio Volunteer Cavalry
VOL Volunteer
MIL Militia
CAV Cavalry
LA Light Artillery
HA Heavy Artillery
ENG Engineers
QM Quartermaster
CT Colored Troops
WGNR Wagoner
SC Signal Corps

Since most Ohioans were in Ohio units, or those around Ohio, there were few Navy or Marine type abbreviations on those stones. However, in the later wars, people served in all the branches of the service. Many different ranks appear, especially for Navy and Marines, and the units get more specific. Often in Navy or Marine units is the letter M which is for mate, such as RM2 which is Radio Mate second class. This list would be very long and we refer you to the search engine listed above for these.

The more recent stones of marble, granite or bronze are usually in the form

First Name MI Surname
Rank Branch of Service
War           Medals
Birthdate Deathdate
Religious emblem

In the branch of service, the letter R usually means Reserve, as in NR for Naval Reserve. Otherwise, most are self evident. We did have Coast Guard and Ohio National Guardsmen.

The medals and awards, if listed, are usually denoted after the designation for the war in which the person served. The most common ones found on Lake County grave markers are PH for Purple Heart and BSM for Bronze Star Medal.

PH -- Purple Heart
BSM -- Bronze Star Medal
SSM -- Silver Star Medal
DFC -- Distinguished Flying Cross
AM -- Air Medal
LOM -- Legion of Merit
ACM -- Army Commendation Medal
CSC -- Conspicuous Service Cross
OLC -- preceded by a number-- Oak Leaf Cluster. This follows another award, such as "DFC 2OLC" This means that the person received three Distinguished Flying Crosses. The first is a medal with ribbon, and for subsequent awards of the same type, the Oak Leaf Clusters are pinned on the first.
V -- following another award means for Valor, such as AM-V is Air Medal for Valor.
A -- following another award means for Achievment, such as AM-A for Air Medal for Achievment.

At the bottom, or between the dates is the religious emblem which can be chosen from a list available with the application for the memorial from the VA or online at This page has the application and has good descriptions of the available markers and what can be put on them. It also has a sheet of pictures of the religious symbols. The most common one for Lake County is the cross for Christian. Some others are described here.

8 pointed wheel with hub is for Buddhist
6 pointed star is Jewish
Cross with tripple crosspieces, bottom one slanted, is Byzantine Catholic or Orthodox.
Cross with a heart in the center is Lutheran
Flaming Chalice is Unitarian
Flame by a cross is United Methodist
Angel Moroni (blowing horn) is Mormon
Boy with Lion and Lamb is Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now Community of Christ)
Crescent and star is Muslim

If an abbreviation or symbol is found on a military marker in Lake County which you cannot idenify, contact the Lake County Genealogical Society, and they will try to research it.

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Last updated 9 Feb 2003

© Cynthia Turk 2003. All Rights Reserved