Arlington starts to return calls after cemetery scandal

Wednesday - 6/23/2010, 4:44pm EDT

By Meg Beasley
Federal News Radio

When an Army investigation revealed hundreds of unmarked graves, unrecorded gravesites and improperly handled burial urns at Arlington National Cemetery on June 11, cemetery officials established a call center for family members concerned about their loved ones' remains.

Ten days after the original announcement, cemetery officials began to call families back, according to a statement issued yesterday by the American Forces Press Service.

The six person call center does not have a voice-mail, an intentional decision to ensure that every caller speaks directly with a cemetery official, says spokeswoman Kaitlin Horst. The center says over 100 families called in the first two hours of its operation, and over 800 families called in the first week.

During the initial flood of calls, the center recorded only basic information of the callers and their deceased family members. Now, after checking records and verifying the physical location of gravesites with the cemetery's burial map, the call center is following up on those calls.

While Horst cannot discuss the number of calls returned so far, she says that discrepancies such as incorrect military rank on headstones have been confirmed to some families.

"First and foremost, we apologize for the distress this has caused them. We want the families to know that the new management team is committed to ensuring the records are accurate," she said.

Concerned family members can call 703-607-8199, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. EDT.

Meg Beasley is an intern at Federal News Radio.

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