Burials Mishandled at Arlington Cemetery
WASHINGTON - The remains of more than 200 troops were misidentified or improperly buried at Arlington National Cemetery, according to an Army investigation of operations at the premier final resting place for 330,000 servicemembers.
Arlington is the "most hallowed burial ground of our nation's fallen," Army Secretary John McHugh said. More than 4 million people come each year to the 146-year-old cemetery, where an average of 27 funerals are conducted each day.
It is home to the graves of President John F. Kennedy and World War II hero Audie Murphy.
Cemetery superintendent John Metzler was stripped of his authority but will remain on staff until his retirement July 2, McHugh said. Thurman Higgenbotham, Metzler's deputy, was placed on administrative leave.
The investigation found problems with identification and record keeping at 211 graves, McHugh said. In one case, the remains of an airman were buried in an unmarked, occupied grave.
Such revelations are outrageous, said Thomas Tradewell, national commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. "The VFW is deeply saddened by the thought of all the family members who are just now learning that their loved one may, potentially, not be resting in peace," he said.
Reports by the Web site Salon.com in July 2009 first detailed problems at the cemetery, and then-Army secretary Pete Geren launched the inspector general's investigation in August.
McHugh announced a series of changes Thursday, including naming former senators and Army veterans Max Cleland, D-Ga., and Bob Dole, R-Kan., to lead a new Army National Cemetery Advisory Commission.
More investigations are on the way, as Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said his panel will investigate the cemetery. "This conduct is disgraceful and cannot be tolerated," Skelton said.