It is a matter of profound anguish to now add Arlington National Cemetery, that sacred field of honor and sacrifice, to the growing list of American institutions that offer up bungled operations, lazy administration, and dreadful standards.
On the eve of the Independence holiday, with its inevitable array of perfunctory preachments and beer-soaked banalities, we learn that among the 330,000 bodies interred in that holy soil of Virginia, any number of our servicemen and women may be in the wrong graves, may have someone else’s tombstone above their heads, or may even be lying mistakenly with others in the same crypt. Poor documentation and downright incompetence has led to this ongoing national sin.
This has been reported now and confirmed by a long list of official and journalistic sources, after a six-month internal investigation done by the Army. (I don’t feel very good about an internal investigation done by the Army, do you?)
Woe unto us…
According to NPR, Army Secretary John McHugh just reported to a congressional panel Wednesday that a “fractured, unmanageable oversight structure” was responsible for a host of problems recently revealed at the national cemetery that contains the remains of President John F. Kennedy: “ An Army investigation released earlier this month concluded that hundreds of gravesites at Arlington have been mismanaged.
“The six-month Army inquiry found problems including improperly marked graves, mismanagement, bad record keeping and wire fraud. The cemetery’s mission, the report said, ‘was hampered by dysfunctional management, a lack of established policy and procedures, and an overall unhealthy organizational climate.’”
I made a call to a contact associated with the military bereavement group (the connection has to do with funeral services I occasionally perform at a national cemetery here in Southern California). This individual told me, in a voice barely above a pained whisper, that young honor guard soldiers serving at Arlington have watched family members grieve and wail at the supposed graves of their departed children—even as the military personnel observing have been aware that somebody else’s body lay beneath them.
Woe unto us, who continue to systemically waste the lives of young men and women in desperately doomed adventures such as in Afghanistan, Iraq, and then succumb to this kind of ghoulish disgrace.
More than frankfurters will be barbecued this weekend; for this I offer no solution (as writers and preachers are supposed to do) other than to pray that America starts over again soon.
IMAGE: Arlington National Cemetery [Wiki]
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