By Mark Banjamin Salon
Records at Arlington National Cemetery suggest that workers found an urn of cremated remains that had been dumped — presumably accidentally — in a dirt landfill, reburied those remains as an unknown soldier, and kept the whole thing quiet.
With the publication of this article, Salon has now disclosed four separate cases in which the cemetery discovered unmarked remains due to burial glitches, mostly poor record-keeping. In a fifth case, the cemetery accidentally buried the remains of one service member on top of another in the same grave. Salon’s reporting has led the Army to launch an investigation of record-keeping problems at the cemetery.
Gravestones simply marked "Unknown" are easy to find scattered throughout the sprawling acres of perfectly aligned headstones at Arlington. In addition to the famous Tomb of the Unknowns, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of unknown soldiers buried there, dating back to the Civil War.
These should be old graves. The cemetery interred the last soldier rendered anonymous by war back in 1984 because DNA has rapidly improved the process of identifying remains.
But a Salon investigation has turned up internal cemetery records that show that sloppy record-keeping, not the ravages of war, blurred the identities of some of those unknown soldiers at Arlington. In some cases cemetery officials lost track of the identity of remains during burial operations and simply erected an "Unknown" headstone above those graves when they could not straighten it out.
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