Arlington Report

by Freddy Groves

In early December, when the Wreaths Across America program put wreaths on graves at Arlington National Cemetery, I flashed back to the ongoing problem of the graves errors at the cemetery: unmarked graves, headstones with no remains, broken urns with scattered remains, graves with more than one person buried in them. The problems, it was thought at the time, could involve upward of 6,000 graves.

Congress demanded that the Army “provide an accounting” of all the gravesites at Arlington. The recently completed report counted (three times) 259,978 gravesites and took digital photos to compare to 510,000 paper records. Of those, 195,748 graves had no discrepancies. But that left 64,230 with errors to be resolved. That’s fully one-quarter of the gravesites.

Supposedly the “errors” involve misspelling of names and other inconsistencies. How then does that jibe with discovering multiple remains in one grave last year, or the 117 graves with no marker whatsoever, or the 94
markers with no remains?

The report was padded with miscellanea. For example, one narrative went on for three pages citing the problems with the spelling of a Civil War-era wife’s name.

But it’s what happens with those other 64,329 unresolved cases that we want to know about. What about those broken, dumped and scattered urns? And those headstones found dumped in a stream in Section 28 last year — will they be returned to the proper gravesite?

I’m lucky. Each year, in conjunction with the Wreaths Across America program, a friend visits my parents’ graves at Arlington. (Yes, they both served.) I get photos back and see instantly that the grave marker is still in good condition — and that it’s still there. I cannot fathom the pain some relatives must feel when they learn that their loved ones aren’t buried where they believed they were.

Write to Freddy Groves in care of King Features Weekly Service, P.O. Box
536475, Orlando, FL 32853-6475, or send e-mail to

(c) 2012 King Features Synd., Inc.

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