The former superintendent of the scandal-wracked military burial site offers "sincere regrets to the families"
The former superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery says he accepts “full responsibility” for the mix-up of graves at the famous military burial ground.
John Metzler ran the cemetery for 19 years before he was forced out because of the scandal. He told a Senate committee on Thursday that it pains him that his team didn’t do its job. He expressed his “sincere regrets to the families.”
Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill said at the hearing that as many as 6,600 graves at Arlington could be unmarked or mislabeled because managers didn’t do their job properly.
That’s much higher than the estimate last month from Army investigators, who said about 211 remains were affected.
Metzler’s former deputy, Thurman Higginbotham, also appeared. Higginbotham says he plans to assert his Fifth Amendment right not to answer questions.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.
WASHINGTON (AP) — A Senate Democrat says that as many as 6,600 graves at Arlington National Cemetery could be misidentified because managers there didn’t do their job properly.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., spoke at a hearing Thursday, where the cemetery’s former superintendent and deputy superintendent were scheduled to testify.
McCaskill says she believes that between 4,900 and 6,600 graves may be unmarked or mislabeled on cemetery maps.
The estimate far exceeds one given by Army investigators last month that some 211 remains could be affected by the graves scandal.
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Salon began investigating burial operations at Arlington National Cemetery in the spring of 2009. In a series of reports since, then Salon has exposed cases in which officials found unknown remains in graves that were supposed to be empty, buried a service member on top of another, and discovered
an urn in a dirt landfill, only to mark it as "unknown" and quietly bury it in an isolated corner of the cemetery. The series also documented hundreds of missing headstones in one historic section of the cemetery.
In response to these and other revelations, the Army launched an investigation. In June 2010, John Metzler Jr., Arlington's superintendent, and his deputy, Thurman Higginbotham were stripped of their their authority, and Army Secretary John McHugh appointed a commission led by former Sens. Bob Dole, R-Kansas, and Max Cleland, D-Ga., to oversee the cemetery.