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Missing in Arlington
July 18, 2009 3:22 PM   Subscribe

Arlington National Cemetery has a problem. Covering 624 acres, the final resting place for 320,000 fallen, the Army can't keep track of where soldiers are buried.
posted by Marky (21 comments total)

 
"You moved the cemetery but you left the bodies, didn't ya? You sonuvabitch. You left the bodies and you only moved the headstones. You only moved the headstones!"
posted by zardoz at 3:33 PM on July 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


Last link redirects to salon's homepage for me. Works if you copy the URL and take out print.html
posted by azarbayejani at 3:55 PM on July 18, 2009


Clicking on your last hyperlink takes me to the Salon frontpage.

These links might be helpful to others who may experience the same problem:
Grave offenses at Arlington National Cemetery.

What's trashed at Arlington National Cemetery.

Video: Injustice at Arlington Cemetery.
posted by ericb at 3:55 PM on July 18, 2009


CBS News: Arlington's Grave Injustice.
posted by ericb at 3:59 PM on July 18, 2009


Wow, the Army sure has shrunk. Under Bush II, the Army covered 1045 acres.
posted by DU at 4:08 PM on July 18, 2009


Last time I checked, Arlington is a National Cemetary, not a living scrap book where you can be the mother whose son or daughter has the most decorated grave. It's a memorial to all the men and women who came before us. Treat it accordingly.
posted by jsavimbi at 4:37 PM on July 18, 2009


[Fixed that last link.]
posted by cortex at 4:39 PM on July 18, 2009


The church once did this deliberaltely for children, like Lord Byron's illegitimate 5-year-old daughter by may Shelly's unmarried half-sister Claire Calirmont, born out of wedlock.
posted by sarah_cortes@post.harvard.edu at 4:45 PM on July 18, 2009


DU's referring to the dangling modifier in the post's second sentence, and yeah, I also wish people wouldn't do such things.

As somebody who works for the military, and who attaches a lot of care and affection to the institution for which I work and the people for whom I work, I wish as well that the problems described by the Salon story weren't so common. (And, actually, they're not common, but rare: I think they just feel more significant because they so obviously shouldn't be problems.)
posted by vitia at 5:20 PM on July 18, 2009


Maybe it's because the place is run by the government that makes this okay but otherwise I'd think an employee trying to pass the management chain to enforce their interpretation of the press access policy and then going in the background to the WaPo with the report and then after they're fired, trashing the person running the place in Salon etc. is a bit uncool? I agree that impersonating her in email is just bizarre though.
posted by Non Prosequitur at 5:37 PM on July 18, 2009


personal mementos placed on graves are left out to rot in the rain for days, ruined by workers with power washers, or thrown into a trash bin.
I'm not understanding this.

I mean, I get that ruining mementos willy-nilly with a power washer isn't terribly appropriate behavior, but I don't get the other two.

What do other cemeteries do? I can't imagine they gather up all mementos from all graves whenever there's a hint of rain, and then place them back in their appropriate spots. So it's either "leave them to rot" or "throw them in a trash bin", isn't it? Isn't that expected behavior for a cemetery?
posted by Flunkie at 5:55 PM on July 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Where the Bodies aren't Burried (I thought it would be this story, but turned out to be a feature on Kestutis Demereckas, surveyor at the Green Wood Cemetery in New York.)
posted by acro at 6:37 PM on July 18, 2009


I have a tremendous respect for Arlington National Cemetery and the veterans buried there. Whether they volunteered or were coerced into fighting on behalf of the United States government does not matter to me. Arlington reminds me that no matter what I believe ideologically, or what vision of "America" that I aspire to, this country is fed on the blood, sacrifice, and shattered dreams of countless real people who have fought in its name.

I have believed in what Arlington has represented. That cemetery is a modest but real reminder of the magnitude of loss we all share for in the name of things we take for granted every day. To learn that Arlington is run no more ethically, and with no more dignity, than a Wall Street bank or Hollywood movie studio makes me question even the most basic truism fed to citizens, that the US values its service.
posted by mrmojoflying at 7:42 PM on July 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


The collection of the mementos at the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial is different in a couple of ways. One the monument is only about 500 feet long. That's a lot easier collection project than 600 acres. Second, I imagine they actually let things stay on the graves longer than they let things remain at the Wall, given that the smaller space and higher density of visitors. It seems that they point of leaving things on a grave is to leave them on the grave not to have them collected immediately and stored somewhere. In a way, the Arlington policy seems more respectful. I imagine they'd have the same policy at the Wall if the density of items didn't make it impractical.
posted by Jahaza at 8:23 PM on July 18, 2009


To learn that Arlington is run no more ethically, and with no more dignity, than a Wall Street bank or Hollywood movie studio makes me question even the most basic truism fed to citizens, that the US values its service.

Inadequate body armor, hastily extended deployments, stop loss, decrepit military hospitals, a rising number of suicides and mental health issues, 1/4 of the homeless are veterans, most of the country is totally apathetic and busy watching something else on TV, and the VA is chronically underfunded and overloaded with red tape... but this treatment of personal mementos left at Arlington is what makes you question whether the US gives a damn?
posted by lullaby at 8:57 PM on July 18, 2009 [5 favorites]


I suddenly want to put the coffee can option in my will.
posted by Evilspork at 12:34 AM on July 19, 2009


If we really honored and respected our soldiers, we wouldn't send them to die for pointless reasons in the first place. So the problems at Arlington are really just symptoms of a much deeper sickness.
posted by Avenger at 2:57 AM on July 19, 2009


but this treatment of personal mementos left at Arlington is what makes you question whether the US gives a damn?

I was more referring to the rampant mistreatment of subordinates and the discovery that it was one man's person fiefdom, which, I am naive to think it would be run differently. I really shouldn't have edited out that entire paragraph explaining how it was the last straw, not the first.
posted by mrmojoflying at 4:52 AM on July 19, 2009


In her sworn testimony, Gray criticized the cemetery for disposing of artifacts left in Section 60, where soldiers who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan are buried. "They throw away things that are left at the gravesites — cards, letters," Gray said. "They don't save anything."

Shocking! My brother died suddenly and unexpectedly a few years ago, and every time I go to his gravesite, I see people have left things behind, but when I come back a few months later, there are different mementoes there. I have always assumed that Jesus flew down from heaven, gathered up these token, and gave them to my brother in the afterlife.

The American tendency towards sentimentality will be the republic's undoing.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:05 AM on July 19, 2009


Some dark joke here about unknown tombs of known soldiers.

The American tendency towards sentimentality will be the republic's undoing.

A lot of ways to take that line. I like it.
posted by IndigoJones at 8:54 AM on July 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Oh, come on. People are fungible. You can have them here or there."
- Donald Rumsfeld
posted by markkraft at 2:04 AM on July 20, 2009


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