WASHINGTON – 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 calls, from the widow of an Army staff sergeant, led to the exhumation of her husband’s casket late last month. The remains in it belonged to someone else, so officials opened a nearby grave and found the woman’s husband, 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.