Allegation of ‘lost accountability of some graves’ prompts Arlington probe
Stars and Stripes November 14, 2009
ARLINGTON, Va. — Army Secretary John McHugh has ordered an investigation into allegations of poor record keeping and “lost accountability of some graves” at Arlington National Cemetery, the Defense Department announced Friday afternoon.
“As the final resting place of our nation’s heroes, any questions about the integrity or accountability of its operations should be examined in a manner befitting their service and sacrifice,” McHugh said in a DOD news release.
The move comes after cemetery workers buried cremated remains in a grave site already in use and then moved the remains, possibly without notifying the next of kin, officials said.
“Since then, questions have been raised over whether cemetery officials used proper procedures to correct the mistake, including notifying the next of kin,” Friday’s news release said.
Also Friday, the Army released the results of an investigation that found officials at the cemetery did not properly mark a grave site discovered in 2003 in what was supposed to be a vacant plot.
“Between May 2003 and July 2009, there is no evidence that a temporary grave marker or a permanent headstone was prepared or placed at the grave site where a casket was known by [cemetery] staff members to be interred,” the report said.
In July, the cemetery superintendent launched a check of records from 1979 to 2003 to try to identify whose remains were in the unmarked grave, the report said.
An ensuing investigation could not determine whose grave was discovered, but it is possible that a husband and wife who died years apart were buried in adjacent grave sites instead of the same plot, Military District of Washington spokesman Col. Dan Baggio said in the news release.
The husband and wife’s names were redacted from the report.
“Cemetery officials have ordered new grave markers for the site,” the news release said. “While exhuming the remains and conducting DNA testing would provide a 100 percent assurance of the cemetery’s findings, the family has declined taking such invasive action. The Army is abiding by their wishes.”
In July the grave site was marked as an “unknown,” but it will now be properly marked, said Army spokesman Gary Tallman.