Another disturbing discovery at Arlington National Cemetery today. Eight sets of remains were found buried in a single gravesite. This is a nightmare that I think none of us would have guessed could happen.
In June 2010 211 graves were found to be “misidentified” or “mislocated,” including graves from those dying in Iraq and Afghanistan. “Leadership” was “changed,” when superintendent Jack C. Metzler, Jr. and his deputy Thurman Higginbothan, were fired, but it appears no one is going to jail.
…the Army inspector general’s investigation last fall after reports of cremated remains being buried in the wrong grave sites, according to Army officials. It was an expansion of an ongoing investigation into cemetery management issues launched by previous Secretary Peter Geren.
The investigation cited missing burial records, unmarked graves and burial urns put in a spillage pile, where dirt dug up for grave sites is left.
Investigators also said inaccurate burial maps are a “systemic problem,” which did not allow them to visit all the graves in question.
Army investigators found a “lack of established policies and procedures, a failure to automate records, and long-term systemic problems,” documents show.
In August a gravesite was found empty, one site held the wrong remains, and a third contained the remains of two persons, only one of which was on the headstone. Can the Army really think the site of 300,000 graves needs no oversight?
Here’s an interesting twist: Gina Gray was fired as the Arlington Cemetery Public Affairs Director in 2008. She says she alerted Congress that “they were getting rid of files here at the Cemetery.” Gray says she was laughed at.
Walking around the cemetery, you can see spaces and numbers that appear to be missing. The Army says the grave site mistakes were only found in three sections, 59, 65, and 66. Gray claims she’s found widespread identification problems, including the Civil War era section 27.
Cemetery documents say all grave sites are occupied in section 27, yet there’s a large empty space that has no stones. Gray claims there are remains there. In 1999, Congress allocated $200,000 in Arlington National Cemetery’s budget to develop a comprehensive automation plan.
Gray says, “The Deputy Superintendent won a government award in 2006 for his vision of automating the cemetery. It has not happened yet.”
Secretary of the Army John McHugh made changes to procedure but no one else was fired. How can this be? Kathyrn Condon, the director of the Army’s National Cemeteries Program is still in her position. She supposedly didn’t know about the problems until about a month ago. Now how can that be? If the Army can’t run a cemetery, how do we expect them to run a war?
In a normal day, those losing a loved one to one of America’s wars, must deal and cope
and there is no way to change that fact, but this…the dead ending up in someone else’s grave, or finding a name that doesn’t match the deceased, or maybe losing your dear one’s burial site…forever. It’s too terrible to imagine, but it is happening to families all to often.
Arlington Cemetery has been revered as our most sacred homage to those who died in service to this country, and this is how we repay that sacrifice. It’s too despicable for words.
Photo Credit: John Moore