Arlington Opens Graves, Finds 2 Misplaced Bodies

Graves at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Va. CBS

Two people were buried in the wrong graves at Arlington National Cemetery, the Army said Wednesday as it followed up an investigation into bookkeeping problems and burial mix-ups at one of the nation's most hallowed sites.

After a report issued in June found that the problems could potentially affect thousands of graves, defense officials received about 1,100 calls from worried families.

One of those callers, the widow of an Army staff sergeant, led to the exhumation of three graves late last month. The three remains in those graves, all former members of the armed forces, were found to be in the wrong place, said Gary Tallman, an Army spokesman.

"The families are satisfied that the problem was fixed," Tallman said Wednesday.

Another grave was opened Wednesday in a different section of Arlington. At the request of his father, the grave and casket of Marine Pfc. Heath Warner of Canton, Ohio, were opened. The site was found to hold the remains of Warner, who was killed in Iraq in 2006, Tallman said.

"We're gratified that the outcome was positive and they were able to gain some closure," Tallman said of Warner's family members.

Tallman said he was not aware of any other requests for exhumation. The Defense Department initially said that three remains were found buried in the wrong graves at Arlington, but later corrected the figure to two.

The investigation into cemetery mismanagement marred the reputation of one of the nation's best-known burial grounds. Army Secretary John McHugh announced that the cemetery's two civilian leaders would be forced to step aside, and appointed a new chief to conduct a more thorough investigation to sort out the mix-ups.

Each year almost 4 million people visit Arlington, where more than 300,000 remains are buried, including those of troops from conflicts dating back to the Civil War, as well as U.S. presidents and their spouses and other U.S. officials.

Remains Misplaced at Arlington National Cemetery

An urn containing the ashes of Marion Grabe, who served 26 years in the Air Force, was accidentally buried over another body, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reported in June. Her remains were finally moved to another plot without telling her family.

"Someone from the family would have been representative at that time of reinternment," said Grabe's sister Dorothy Nolte. "However, we weren't notified so that was a very sad thing for us."

The inspector general's report vindicates whistleblower Gina Grey, a former public affairs officer at the cemetery, who told a high ranking general about the problems two years ago.

In July, the cemetery's former superintendent blamed his staff and a lack of resources for the scandal that forced his ouster.

John Metzler, who spent the past 19 years overseeing Arlington National Cemetery, said the buck stops with him.

"Personally it is very painful for me that our team at Arlington did not perform all aspects of its mission to the high standard required," he told a Senate panel.

But he blamed limited resources and said he only discovered the problem recently, infuriating Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.).

"The notion that you would come in here and act like you didn't know about it until a month ago is offensive," she said. "You did know about it and you did nothing."


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