Arlington Dishonors America's Fallen Soldiers
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!