Arlington's Burial Mix-Ups: Will the Army Fix the Problem?





On a recent, unusually warm late-winter day, a young woman sat quietly at the foot of a white headstone at Arlington National Cemetery, among a cluster of graves of troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The woman, maybe 25 years old, sat in the grass, hugging the headstone.

The question is not why she was doing that (that's easy to understand); the question is whether the headstone she was hugging was the right one. Last summer, an Army inspector general's investigation confirmed that the Army had effectively lost control of its sacred ground, the national resting place of John F. Kennedy, Audie Murphy and 330,000 others who faithfully served their country. The Army probe played down reports of misplaced or lost remains, but the revelations prompted congressional hearings and howls of disgust from veterans' organizations. In an unusual departure from the Army's normal reflexes, Army Secretary John McHugh pushed out the superintendent of Arlington and his deputy and installed a new boss to make things right on its hallowed site. (See TIME's video "Obama's Veterans Day Visit to Arlington.")

But it appears likely that the problems at Arlington are far worse than the Army has acknowledged, and the new chief, Kathryn Condon, admits the service may never be able to identify all the missing remains on the immaculate 624-acre (250 hectare) site. The Army now plans to make only educated guesses about the identity of remains rather than digging in the dirt to be sure. That means that the true location of some remains may be a mystery forever....



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