News Releases

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, sent a letter to express her dismay over the mishandling of graves at Arlington National Cemetery. This letter follows an investigation conducted by the Department of the Army Inspector General that found over 200 mismarked graves at Arlington National Cemetery, an Army run facility. The letter asks that the problem at Arlington be immediately remedied and urges the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs to examine their procedures and practices to ensure the burials of our fallen servicemen and women are always handled with the care they deserve. 

“In the coming days, I expect that every family whose loved ones’ gravesites was mishandled will be notified of the situation and what has been done to correct the problem,” Senator Murray wrote. “And in the longer-term, I strongly believe it behooves the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs to review their standard operating procedures and practices at cemeteries nationwide to ensure these burials are always properly handled.”

The full text of the letter appears below:

The Honorable Robert Gates
Secretary of Defense
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Secretary of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon Room 3E970
Washington, DC 20301-1000

The Honorable Eric K. Shinseki
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Office of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue NW Room 1000
Washington, DC 20420

Dear Secretary Gates and Secretary Shinseki:

I am writing to you about my concerns regarding the mishandling of graves at Arlington National Cemetery.  I was appalled to discover that the leadership at the Arlington Cemetery has neglected their responsibility to the men and women who have served our country so well.  As I am sure you agree, we owe our servicemembers and their families the most exacting attention to detail when burying and honoring the remains of our national heroes.

The Arlington National Cemetery investigation completed by the Department of the Army Inspector General (DAIG) is truly disturbing.  It identifies 211 mismarked graves at Arlington National Cemetery, and presents the possibility that many more may exist.  It also describes a hostile work environment and persistent poor communications that contributed to the gravesite mismanagement.  I appreciate that Secretary McHugh has taken prompt corrective action with the Arlington National Cemetery leadership and has promised to personally provide future oversight.   I also recognize that the DAIG report deals solely with issues related to Arlington National Cemetery.  But as the consequences of getting this wrong are so painful for the families of the fallen, and so disrespectful to the memories of our veterans, I seek additional assurances that this will never happen in the future at Arlington National Cemetery or any other national cemetery.

In the coming days, I expect that every family whose loved ones’ gravesites was mishandled will be notified of the situation and what has been done to correct the problem.  And in the longer-term, I strongly believe it behooves the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs to review their standard operating procedures and practices at cemeteries nationwide to ensure these burials are always properly handled.  I respectfully request a detailed response on what safeguards are currently in place and where improvements could be made at national cemeteries under your authorities.  I would also like to know if you believe legislative action is needed to ensure that national cemeteries are properly managed and gravesites adequately cared for.

I look forward to working with you to ensure that the remains of our national heroes are managed and handled with the respect, dignity and meticulous care they deserve. Thank you for your attention and I look forward to your response. 

Patty Murray
U.S. Senator