Arlington Cemetery Records a Mess

Salon.com has a disheartening story about the troubles at the national cemetery at Arlington, Virginia, those sacred grounds were thousands upon thousands of our nation’s heroes and notables have been buried. Infuriatingly, it seems that cemetery records are a mess, some of them not corresponding to headstones, many garbled or lost.

This is the nation’s most revered cemetery yet some soldier’s names are lost to the permanent record, some burials are unknown because of failed record keeping, it is even thought that some headstones are on the wrong graves.

In 2004 and 2005, Arlington conducted a pilot project to check burial records against headstone information on 300 graves. “The accuracy of interment records and maps that track reserved, obstructed, and occupied graves were proven to have errors,” the project found, according to Arlington National Cemetery budget documents. “For example, gravesites that were marked as obstructed were actually available and information listed on grave cards and burial records were not consistent with the information on the actual headstone.”

The problems continue today. In 2008, Arlington National Cemetery issued a progress report to Congress on the computerization project. “The current way of doing business is mostly manual, complex, redundant and inefficient,” cemetery officials noted, acknowledging continuing discrepancies among burial maps, headstones and burial records.

One would think that in this electronic age, all those records would have been computerized years ago. Apparently there was a program launched almost 10 years ago to do just that but it has gotten nowhere and still to this day records are being kept in ink on paper.

And, while the cemetery is failing at its modernization of records there is silliness being perpetrated by the man in charge on the grounds, too. He is breaking into employee’s email addresses, sending messages and impersonating the employee, mining hard drives for “information,” and all sorts of nonsense that has nothing to do with his job.

Deputy Superintendent Thurman Higginbotham, the man responsible for the invasion of email accounts and what not, seems to be a paranoid sort imagining the world is out to get him. But whatever his personality, it appears that he is failing to properly care for our sacred fallen.

Despite many thousands of dollars sent his way to identify, record, and compile the information of those American heroes that are interred at Arlington National Cemetery, this government flunky has failed to deliver.

And the government, even as it is aware of these problems, has done nothing. Not only that, but there seem to be no plans to do anything about it either.

The upshot is, the government has failed our dead. They cannot keep records straight on people that have been buried at Arlington. They have lost information on people that have been buried in the ground. The system is a disaster, a failure, a total mess.

So, if the government can’t even do right by the dead… how can we expect it to do right by the living in a national healthcare system?

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