Skip to comments.Problems possible with nearly 65,000 Arlington graves, report says
Posted on 12/23/2011 6:00:30 AM PST by shove_it
After a year-long effort to account for every grave at Arlington National Cemetery, Army officials said Thursday that there might be problems, some as minor as typographical errors in paper records, with nearly 65,000 sites or one-quarter of the graves at the nations most prominent military burial ground.
In a highly anticipated report, mandated by Congress last year after the discovery of misidentified remains, the cemetery cited monumental challenges in completing the task: missing Civil War-era logs, illegible headstones and burial procedures that changed significantly over the 150-year history of the site.
In a lot of cases, the marker is absolutely right, said Army Col. John Schrader, the co-chair of the task force. The service was conducted flawlessly and someone wrote something on a piece of paper wrong.
Although the review has not yet found additional people buried in the wrong spots, the discovery of burial errors cannot be ruled out, the report said.
(Excerpt) Read more at washingtonpost.com ...
I disagree. The story is straightforward. the Army at Arlington and Walter Reed, and the Air Force at Dover rightfully deserve heaps of “WaPoo” for their bungling.
What about the story about warriors’ remains being dumped in landfills? Think that was just the media dragging the Military down? Should they just sit on this information instead?
The Military does what it’s supposed to do (kill people and break things) extraordinarily well. But when it comes to bureaucracy (i.e. maintaining a graveyard), lets just say the record is less than stellar.
What would you expect? It’s run by the federal government. What federal program or department isn’t effed up?
This is a disgrace. In other cases the military left bodies to rot when the burial was delayed, areas which were not even air conditioned. They’ve buried people in the wrong graves and thrown partial remains in the landfill.
The military and our government has shown a complete lack of respect for the fallen. Sure they drape the coffins in flags and return them respectfully when people are watching. As soon as the remains enter the burial process and out of view their real level of respect becomes evident.
Its how you behave when others aren’t watching that shows your true integrity.
The ex-slaves were buried there to spite Robert E. Lee the owner of the land where Arlington now stands. Their stones are simply titled "Citizen".
For this they're going to end careers and spend millions of $$ ??.
How about focusing on section 60 which is at least current burials and fix that?
"Another type of medical waste involves the disposal of any anatomical human remains. This does not include the deceased, but refers to things like organs, tissue matter, or removed limbs. These things are required to be incinerated, usually on-site."
"Solid waste is usually steam sterilized and then disposed of in the same fashion as any other trash or waste."
Considering the WaPo is going for sensationalism, I suspect many of the cases were legally addressed under civilian circumstances but that wouldn't suit an agenda to slam the USAF and the military.
Here’s a surprisingly more balanced AP article published in the Miami Herald titled: Army: “Some Arlington markers may need replacement” by By MATTHEW BARAKAT 22 Dec 2011
Associated Press ...
ARLINGTON, Va. — Thousands of grave markers at Arlington National Cemetery may need to be replaced or added to accurately account for the dead, following a meticulous Army review of each of the nearly 260,000 headstones and niche covers on the grounds.
In a report to Congress on Thursday, the Army found potential discrepancies between headstones and cemetery paperwork on about 64,000 grave markers - about one in four.
Congress ordered the review last year following reports of misidentified and misplaced graves that led to the ouster of the cemetery’s top executives.
The report found no further evidence of misplaced graves, though it cautioned that its review is not complete and that some errors could have gone undetected.
There are potentially thousands of minor errors, including misspelled names, or incorrect military ranks and dates of birth and death.
The Army compared information on every headstone to its internal records, scouring handwritten logs of the dead from the Civil War and a hodgepodge of other records to verify accuracy.
In an interview, the cemetery’s executive director, Kathryn Condon, said reviews are ongoing and it’s premature to try to estimate exactly how many headstones may need replacement.
To be sure, many of the 64,000 discrepancies will turn up no problem with a headstone - it may be as simple as a typo on an internal record. And in many cases, the discrepancies are not errors at all but reflect past practices at the cemetery that are now considered outdated.
One of the biggest surprises uncovered by the review was that in most of the early 20th century, the cemetery did not include the name of a wife on a headstone when she was buried next to her husband. Under current practices, the name of the spouse is etched onto the back of the headstone.
Condon said the cemetery will correct that by adding the spouse’s name to the gravesite. She said it is not only the right thing to do but is also required by law.
Accounting for the forgotten spouses alone will require thousands of corrections, officials said. In some cases, replacement headstones will be made. In cases where the headstones are considered historic, footstones will be added.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., who was critical of the old management team and has been supportive of Condon’s reform efforts, said the cemetery “is now a turnaround story. After we uncovered chronic managerial failure and demanded comprehensive reforms from a new leadership team, I am pleased to receive this report that shows great progress and lays out a plan to finish the job.”
But Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said the report “raises more questions than it answers,” particularly with the ultimate disposition of those 64,000 discrepancies. He said that while Condon has worked hard to improve management at the cemetery, he is not convinced that the cemetery has fixed its data-management problems. Warner had asked a consortium of northern Virginia technology companies to help the cemetery get a data-management plan in place, and he wants further assurances that the Army took the help that was offered on a pro bono basis.
The Army and a team of 70 analysts are undertaking painstaking reviews of every case where they find a potential discrepancy to ensure that records are made accurate. Those reviews are expected to be completed in the summer.
The process began with a hand count, using simple mechanical clickers, of every gravesite - 259,978 to be exact. (More than 300,000 people are buried at Arlington, but some grave markers have two or more names.) Then, during the summer, members of the Army’s ceremonial Old Guard unit used iPhones to photograph the front and back of every headstone, so the information could be compared against internal records.
Officials cited Christian Keiner, a Civil War veteran from New York who died in 1919, as a typical example. The headstone reflected only his name, but internal records showed that his wife, Caroline Keiner, had also been buried there in 1915. In addition, the internal records spelled Caroline Keiner’s name as “Kiner.” Officials reviewed handwritten Census records from 1900 and Civil war-era military and pension records to confirm that “Keiner” was indeed the correct spelling.
The Keiners’ great-granddaughter, 52-year-old Cee Cee Molineaux of Annapolis, Md., was shocked to learn the story of her ancestors Thursday when reached by phone by The Associated Press. She had only passing knowledge of her great-grandparents, and no idea her great-grandfather served in the Civil War. She was gratified that the cemetery is making efforts to commemorate the resting place of her great-grandmother.
“It’s absolutely meaningful to me - not just because she’s an ancestor but just for women in general. To not have their final resting place acknowledged is kind of sad,” said Molineaux, who now works for the American Red Cross.
John Schrader, co-chair of the Gravesite Accountability Task Force, said recordkeeping methods varied widely over the cemetery’s 147-year history, from handwritten logs to index cards, to typewritten forms and two different computer databases. That sometimes compounded problems, as transcription errors were common. To avoid those problems, all of the old records have been scanned and digitized, rather than transcribed, to avoid introducing further errors, he said.
The sheer size of the cemetery also made the task difficult. It is the second-largest cemetery in the country as well as a tourist site that draws more than 4 million visitors a year, all while conducting nearly 30 burials a day, some with full military honors.
The most significant part of the review, Condon said, is that the cemetery for the first time has a single, reliable database that will allow officials to fix past mistakes and plan for the future.
The cemetery is currently testing an interactive, web-based version of its database that will allow visitors to click on a digital map to see gravesites and learn who is buried there, ensuring the cemetery’s records are open and accessible going forward.
“We’ll have 300 million American fact-checkers,” Schrader said.
I'll bet many if not most national cemeteries will have some of the same issues regarding spousal burial and proper marker inscription. As the article pointed out, it was a perfectly acceptable practice that is now done differently. It was never a violation of law or tradition.
It looks like another political ping pong ball to bounce against an uneducated public who got all fired up, without a clue regarding the facts.
Some comments are so typical of loudmouth, know-nothing politicians. The see one number in a report and cling to it like a Penn. Democrat clinging to his gun.
What these cannot write in the reports is that a vast majority of these issues are insignificant. Because every grave is important, they cannot say it...but I can. Getting 150 years worth of records straight is a monumental task. Kudos for these guys working to get it right.
Here's a link to the article I posted last summer about the Old Guard soldiers photographing and GPSing every tombstone in The Garden ...
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