July 29th, 2010
11:37 AM ET

Senator: Arlington grave mix-ups may be worse than thought

As many 6,600 graves at Arlington National Cemetery may be "unmarked, improperly marked or mislabeled" on cemetery maps, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri, said Thursday.

Cemetery officials had previously estimated just 211 were mislabeled.

A Senate subcommittee is holding a hearing to examine the mismanagement of Arlington Cemetery, one of the nation's most hallowed burial places for its war dead.

The hearing was spurred by Army Secretary John McHugh's reports in June that revealed 211 graves were misidentified or mislocated in the historic cemetery.

A months-long investigation found "a lack of expertise in contracting processes within the cemetery, coupled with a lack of focused external oversight."

The probe exposed a dysfunctional management team with no oversight, missing documents, poor record keeping and failure to notify next-of-kin about the problems, according to the Inspector General's report.

McHugh said that "by placing everyone in charge, no one was in charge," and vowed to do "everything necessary and possible to right these unimaginable, unacceptable wrongs."

However, the cleanup launched in June did not include clearing out personnel.

After the investigation, the cemetery's former superintendent, John Metzler, who was scheduled to retire next month, was reprimanded. Metzler's former deputy superintendent, Thurman Higginbotham, was placed on administrative leave pending further review. The pair are invited witnesses at the hearing.

Army Inspector-General Steven Whitcomb said his review found no evidence of deliberate wrongdoing.

But Gina Gray, an Iraq veteran who is suing on grounds that she was fired for bringing the problems to light, wants to see someone held accountable for the blunders. She alleges the cemetery used outdated technology despite receiving millions of dollars to update its record-keeping systems.

"I don't know what it is going to take to get them fired over there," Gray said. "We have evidence of unmarked, mismarked graves, mismanagement going decades back."

McHugh said in June that a number of solutions are currently being considered for correctly identifying the remains in question, including exhuming graves for family members to identify their loved ones by the unique caskets containing them, opening the caskets to pick through articles and mementos, or, as a last resort, conducting DNA tests.

McHugh, sworn in as Army secretary in September, said the circumstances were allowed to continue due in part to fuzzy lines of oversight.

"I've restructured the administrative processes, and the lines of authority are pretty clear through the executive director, right down to my desk," McHugh said.

He said the solutions include pumping money into modern computer technology.

McHugh created a position to oversee operations at Arlington, and will personally supervise the superintendent position, he said.

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soundoff (112 Responses)
  1. j r

    Too bad some people don't show as much concern for the living as they do for dead rotting pieces of meat.

    July 29, 2010 at 6:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • FREE and they still will not take it.

      You are probably not a veterran, nor have what it takes to be one. People like you are the reason this Great Country is now a sess pool filled with thoses who think it is all free and they deserve to be hand fed. You are discusting. One good thing about these honorable men and women is that they are not living to read such remarks made by losers like your self. They gave it all so you could shoot #@$^ out of you pie hole. i cant say enough about punks like you. Get in line with the rest of the leaches that want for free but will not give back. Better yet, mover you @#$ to Mexico

      July 30, 2010 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • j r

      Hey FREE, People like you who support the liars and thieves and traitors who have destroyed this country are the problem. Name the last war the US has been involved in that was about national security and not about making the rich richer. You and your ilk are the real reason these honorable men and women are dead. Why don't you get the hell out of my country you miserable piece of $#!t.

      July 30, 2010 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
  2. FREE and they still will not take it.

    like i said, give you something free and you will shut you mouth, make you earn it and it so somebody eles fault. You are just drawiing attention to yourself because you need your ego trip. You are a JOKE, get the hell out if you dont like it here, but then it woudl be harder to get the free stuff you so desperatly need to live off others. I will not waste my time on another coment. I prefer to talk to Americans.
    Where did this honorable statement you made come from, i thouight thery were "dead rotting pieces of meat".

    July 30, 2010 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
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