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Arlington mixup

July 29, 2010

This one isn’t going to be an image post… but it’s something that I think we need to bring attention to.

At Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, last month it was discovered that a number of graves – the estimate was 211 – were mislabeled.  Now, we’re learning that there may be up to six thousand graves that may be improperly marked, or not even marked at all.

Arlington is among the country’s largest cemeteries – there are more than 300,000 people buried there. At an average of 28 funerals a day, 5 days a week, Arlington has the second-highest number of burials occurring annually in the country.  The vast majority of these people are fallen servicemen and women.  This includes the Tomb of the Unknowns, which houses the remains of three (formerly four) unidentified soldiers – Unknown Soldier of World War I, Unknown Soldier of World War II, and Unknown Soldier of the Korean Conflict.  There used to be an Unknown Soldier of the Vietnam Conflict, but his remains were claimed, identified, and disinterred (unburied, and then moved to another cemetery at the request of his family) in 1998.  The Tomb of the Unknowns is guarded by the Old Guard, the 3rd US Infantry, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

This cemetery is a really big deal.  All National Cemeteries are a big deal, but because this one is the closest to the nation’s capital, and because of the Tomb of the Unknowns, and the size of the cemetery and its volume of burials, Arlington is hugely important.  Most of the people buried here are people who gave their lives for our country.  So to hear that six thousand of them have been buried incorrectly?  Six thousand people, some of whom have died outside of their service, but plenty of whom were killed in the line of duty, have been so deeply disrespected as to be memorialized under somebody else’s name – or under no name at all.

There is a Congressional subcommittee hearing scheduled for today, to go over this.  The former superintendent of the cemetery left his position last month after it was revealed that 211 were wrong.  His deputy superintendent has said that he plans to invoke his 5th Amendment right to not testify at the hearing.  Sooo… we’ll see what happens.  Follow news of the hearing here, at CNN.

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