Thousands of Headstones Mislabeled at Arlington National

John Metzler is the former Chief of Arlington National Cemetery. Last week he testified to a Senate Committee investigating the events leading up to thousands of headstones at Arlington being mislabeled. Metzler stated that while many problems were dealt with on his watch, this particular problem was the direct result of two things:

  • Lack of money; and
  • Lack of staff.

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D. – MO.) is the Chairperson of the Senate Oversight Committee, and had no tolerance for Metzler’s accounting of his problems while Chief. Sen. McCaskill’s intolerance was rooted in Metzler trying to persuade the committee he didn’t know about the extent of the problem. The truth is Metzler knew of these problems 5 years ago, despite him attempting to claim this situation crept up on him.

An Army audit found about 211 grave sites mislabeled in Arlington after checking a small section of the cemetery. Applying this number to the rest of the unchecked cemetery would mean somewhere in the neighborhood of 6,600 headstones could be affected.

The cemetery was given $5 million to automate and digitize their records as the Department of Veterans affairs (VA) does, yet Arlington still relies on paper records; the source of these mislabeling problems. When asked why he didn’t adopt the VA’s automated system, Metzler said it was not compatible with the Army’s system.

Both Metzler and his Deputy resigned following the release of the audit. Even though Metzler took “full responsibility” for the problem and the mislabeled headstones, he qualified his statement. While he expressed his regrets, he still blamed lack of funds and staff.

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