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Arlington Dishonors America's Fallen Soldiers

Updated on May 8, 2013

Am I the only one that finds the mismanagement of America’s fallen soldier’s remains at Arlington National Cemetery a travesty? To me it is unbelievable and I know it is unsettling and disheartening to the many families that thought their loved ones remains were honored and taken care of with respect.

How could something like this happen? It is called “mismanagement .” A simple word that is a label for people who are irresponsible in the management of something, only this “something” was the remains of our fallen soldiers; soldiers that have served for America’s freedom and gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country with their lives. Over 200 fallen soldiers, our brave, have been misidentified or mislocated. Burial records from the historic cemetery are missing as well as many burial urns. The names and ages of the soldiers in the affected graves have not been released, but it is estimated that there could be more than the 211 first realized as the investigation continues. It is my opinion that this “mismanagement” should be considered more like professional misconduct and criminal negligence.

An investigation was launched last fall when there were questions regarding the cremated remains of soldiers that were buried in the wrong grave sites. Army investigators found that a “lack of established policies and procedures, a failure to automate records, and long-term systemic problems,” are the cause of the mismanagement. Great! An entity of our government once again has failed the American people due to “lack of established policies and procedures.”  Our inspector general’s team found that Arlington employees performed their jobs with “dedication and to a high professional standard.” The team also found them hindered by “dysfunctional management”, and found an overall unhealthy organizational climate as there was discovered low employee morale and conflicts between superintendent Metzler and deputy superintendent Higginbotham. Metzler announced his retirement effective July 2, and Higginbotham has been placed on administrative leave pending further investigation. The excuses go on and on. Is anyone else feeling absolutely no confidence in our Government’s ability to manage and hold government entities accountable for adverse actions and mistakes?


The following statement was released by Secretary of the Army, John McHugh: “I deeply apologize to the families of the honored fallen resting in that hallowed ground, who may now question the care afforded to their loved ones.” Is an apology enough? Would an apology be enough if it were one of the ones who “mismanaged” Arlington’s family members? I, for one, don’t think so. Mr. McHugh went on to say “A military force that does not faithfully care for its fallen members, is in far worse shape than even its anti-war critics imagine.”

I feel that our fallen soldiers must never be treated as if they are only dead. Their heroic self-sacrifice is a pillar not only of patriotism, but of national purpose and pride and also as a symbol of the cost of fighting for American’s freedoms. I know that there is nobility in the love of one soldier for another, the living for the dead. I see it as the Army’s duty to guard such love, respect and honor it, which is done with the proper honoring of our soldiers remains.


 Secretary McHugh after firing two top supervisors of Arlington National Cemetery said, regarding the burial sites with wrong headstones, and improper handling of fallen soldier’s remains, “That all ends today.” McHugh announced a series of corrective measures that includes creating a new position of executive director of the Army National Cemeteries Program, to oversee the cemetery and staff. It is stated that Kathryn Condon, previously the senior civilian for Army Materiel Command, will fill the position and conduct a more comprehensive investigation of the mismanagement.


Correcting the mishaps at the grave sites may entail disinterring remains of using x-ray machines to discover whether remains are present in unmarked sites. General Whitcomb, the Army’s inspector general, stated when pressed to explain how these mistakes may have happened, said, that a lawn mower might have damaged a headstone that was then removed but never replaced on the grave site, leading cemetery staff to believe the grave was unoccupied. “Clearly we found nothing that was intentional, criminal intent, or intended sloppiness that caused this,” he said. It may not have been intended, but it certainly did bear lack of responsibility.

Arlington Cemetery still uses paper methods to track over 300, 000 people buried at Arlington, in spite of millions of dollars that it has paid to contractors to computerize its records. The cemetery complains that it lacks the staff necessary to properly manage contractors, and that Army agencies did not properly oversee the cemetery’s contracts. More wasteful government spending that was paid out and the service was not done and it was not caught and corrected. Will the nightmare of runaway government allotments and mismanaged funds ever stop? These are our fallen soldiers we are talking about as well as our hard earned tax dollars being paid for things that are not being done!

What is Arlington going to do to reassure the public that our fallen soldiers will be buried where they are supposed to be buried and how will they insure us that our soldiers will not be dishonored in such a way ever again? I can’t say, but I know that there has to be accountability outside of one losing their job. There are families wondering where their loved ones remains are as they have either been misplaced in their urns, or they have been placed in gravesites with no markers. Our fallen should have been a larger priority to the people in charge of oversight in the cemetery regardless of low morale, or infighting. How can this be justified? It can’t. But, like most things that happen involving the Federal government or an entity of our Government, it will be glanced over and put aside as an unfortunate mistake with the promise of more oversight, better policies and guidelines, and new management. I can only hope and pray that something like this does not happen at Arlington again to dishonor our honorable and brave fallen soldiers. May they rest in peace with as much dignity and honor as they did when they served and gave their lives for America. God Bless our troops and their families!


Do you feel that this mismanagement should be a criminal offense?

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    • profile image

      donna 3 years ago

      I was so short ked to have read such a thing I have seen Arlington in person and looking at this place these men who gave there life to serve there country has giving us our freedom an by the way the men who are laid to rest died in vain am and how they were treated was uncalled for we owe them a big apology let's remember them alive or passed away go up a soldier and thank them for what they done for us god bless us an this country

    • profile image

      phdast7 6 years ago

      An important Hub about a tragic and unacceptable situation at out National Cemetery. Thank you for your effort. My father was retired Air Force and I cannot imagine how we would feel if something like that had happened.

    • Bibowen profile image

      William R Bowen Jr 7 years ago

      Thanks for writing this and calling attention to this disgrace. This is just another example of how our government is failing to focus on what's important. Well-written with stirring photos.

    • Springboard profile image

      Springboard 7 years ago from Wisconsin

      ESPECIALLY in the case of our fallen. They are the reason for our freedom.

    • TinaMarieTad profile image

      TinaMarieTad 7 years ago from Michigan

      Springboard~ Thanks for coming by to read this Hub..I was so angry and hurt for our fallen when writing this Hub. I feel as you do, that the government should take steps by innovating the record keeping to make certain this does not happen again.

    • Springboard profile image

      Springboard 7 years ago from Wisconsin

      It's a travesty, but no less a surprise either. The government cannot manage anything, and that's really the problem. People who gravitate to government jobs do so (and I'm not speaking to everyone here) mostly because the pay is fairly good, and the benefits are extremely good, and job security is fairly high. These are people looking for security, not jobs, and they like to say, "I work for the government."

      That and the fact that technologically, for whatever reason, most aspects of the government's business is still conducted the old fashioned way. I can't even use my debit card at the DMV for crying out loud.

      Streamlining is something that businesses do to create efficiency and lower costs. The government should take a lesson on this. This streamlining would likely reduce the number of errors as well in a case such as Arlington.

      Excellent hub on the topic.

    • TinaMarieTad profile image

      TinaMarieTad 7 years ago from Michigan

      Chica~ Thanks so much for stopping by.. This broke my heart to write. I had to write about it though, mainstream media just sluffed right over this misjustice to our fallen. I had to let people know that our fallen had been disrespected in a horrible way..They deserve so much better than mismanagement of their remains..They served with honor and valour, and should be treated the same in death. Thank you for your service to our wonderful Country!

    • Chaotic Chica profile image

      Chaotic Chica 7 years ago

      I don't even think the word tragedy is enough to encompass the injustices done here! This is, sadly, just another line in the list of the ways the government has failed to honor those who protect it. I served and am proud to have done so. Getting out was one of the very few things I actually regret doing. It is astonishing to see how the government we elected really cares for the people most vital to it's survival (that includes blue collar civilians doing their part in their corner of the country). Thank you for submitting this hub for those that may have been unaware of this travesty.

    • TinaMarieTad profile image

      TinaMarieTad 7 years ago from Michigan

      Wayne~ You are absolutely right about the probable cause of this mishap. I too am sure that they are operating on a low budget and I am certain that someone lost their empathy along the way for our fallen soldiers. I also pray and hope that responsible people will be put into place to insure that something like this does not happen again, and that our soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice are treated with respect and honor in their final resting place. Thanks for your visit and comment!

    • TinaMarieTad profile image

      TinaMarieTad 7 years ago from Michigan

      50~ What a story! Our fallen soldiers deserve respect at all costs, and it is a disgrace to not respect them in the manner in which they deserve. Thank you so much for stopping by and commenting on my Hub~ You are welcome anytime!

    • Wayne Brown profile image

      Wayne Brown 7 years ago from Texas

      Strong hub, Tina. This is an area that looks good on the surface and every politician holds up as honorable when it suits their cause. Behind the scene, the budgets are minimal and probably cut at first need. That is obvious in the fact that the system is still operating as a "paper environment". Over time, as with some sectors of the public, the people connected to the daily operation lose their empathy and their awe for those interred here. It becomes just a job to them and they do it with poor attention to detail. It is good all of this has surfaced. Hopefully, it will be put in its proper order and responsible people will be put into place who hold the utmost respect for those who have given so much. Thank you. WB

    • 50 Caliber profile image

      50 Caliber 7 years ago from Arizona

      TinaMarieTad, this is inexcusable, and a total disrespect toward the families of these who have fallen. It just denigrates our system further and further. Flash back, 1978, Veterans Cemetery, Riverside, California. 300 plus Harley Davidson motorcycles in a double column following the hearse, awesome turn out for a former team member. I'll never forget, the green manicured lawn, an area with new age art from Marble with a slab to rest the casket on. I took my place as the casket came out of the hearse to carry it to the stand. NO flag draped the casket, I glanced around, no Color Guard, No bugler, No riflemen. No Chaplain. No anything, not a place for his wife to sit, nor his children or any family members. After the casket was placed, the hearse was closed up and fired up and drove away. A suit and tie pressed a red button and a single speaker, crackling from weather damage and low quality, sounded taps and a recording of the 21 gun salute. I don't guess I'll forget that day. While this was going on the suite and tie drove away leaving a monumental turn out of folks standing there wondering "WTF" just happened. The concrete pad had rubber tire marks on it, after everyone left, they just gathered up the casket with a forklift drove it to the hole and tilted the lift letting it slide into the ground, where there were 2 other caskets all ready. I asked the driver and he told me 4 to a hole.

      I just couldn't understand why they didn't provide Military Honors, wasn't like the hangers where I was stationed in Tustin, and the fixed wing at El Toro, National Guard units, ROTC, Naval bases, Air Force bases couldn't come up with what should have been done. I was truly ashamed of the USA that day. So here it is thirty some odd years later, looks like not much has changed. Thanks for bringing this up, I missed it in the news, most likely due to wanting it to get the least amount of publicity possible. 50

    • TinaMarieTad profile image

      TinaMarieTad 7 years ago from Michigan

      Joni~~ Thanks for being the first to stop by.. I am so saddened by this disrespect. I cried while writing it thinking of the families affected. Mismanagment is not a good excuse to dishonor our American Heroes.

    • Joni Douglas profile image

      Joni Douglas 7 years ago

      What a tragedy. What a great hub. Our soldiers are heroes and for their remains to be treated in such a cavalier manor is disgraceful. They gave all for this country and our honor of them should never stop.

      This disrespect to our fallen is a disgrace to us all and to our country. Thank you for bring this to our attention.