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The Real Mix-up At Arlington: Where’s RFK?

Arlington National Cemetery.“Has anybody here, seen my old friend Bobby?”

This week, the AP reported that as many as 6,600 graves in the Arlington National Cemetery were misplaced or misidentified. The scandal originally led to the ouster of the man who ran Arlington for 19 years as well as his deputy. And that was when investigators thought only 211 graves had been mismarked. On Thursday, the head of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Reform Committee, Senator Claire McCaskill, upped the ante by 30 times.

For the average tourist, though, these egregious mistakes don’t really take away from the sad-but-inspiring experience of seeing the rows and rows of neatly arranged headstones, flowing along undulating, grass-covered hills.

However, when we last visited Arlington, in early July just before McCaskill’s bombshell, we spotted another outrageous mix-up.

JFK.The official map given out in the visitors’ center, “Our National Cemetery,” is the one naturally used by most tourists to plan their visit. Most of the attractions one might want to see are marked on the map: memorials to the “Battle of the Bulge,” the “Rough Riders,” the “Beirut Barracks,” the “USS Maine,” and the triptych of tragedy honoring “Challenger,” the “Iran Rescue Mission,” and “Columbia.”

President Taft’s grave is marked as are the two most popular stops, the “Tomb of the Unknowns,” and the grave of President Kennedy, featuring the Eternal Flame. Signs along the route point out the way to both.

We used the map, too. After visiting the Eternal Flame, because the crowd filled up the main avenue for getting to and from the graves of President Kennedy and his family (not John-John, who was cremated), we went out an unused side path that disinvites guests.

Teddy.After a few steps we came across a small white cross behind a simple rectangular marker flat against the ground. An empty grassy hill rose behind it. No one was paying respects. No one else was buried nearby, and when we went to look, we half-expected to see the name of a valiant civil war horse, given the marker’s isolation, and since most soldiers are buried under headstones.

It was Robert F Kennedy’s grave. It was not on the map. The USS Serpens is on the map. The Argonne Cross is on the map. But not Robert F Kennedy’s grave.

For that matter, Ted Kennedy’s grave is not on the map either. But it’s here, too. Also at the base of the hill, over about fifty feet. But he had a lot more visitors when we were there, mainly because he had an Astroturf standing area, inviting the curious, and because he is buried closer to the main drag, Sheridan Drive.

RFK grave.We couldn’t believe it. And, in fact, if you pore over the brochure containing the map, you can get at least a rough idea of where RFK is buried. But that’s no excuse. The map’s what used by tourists in go-mode: dealing with the heat, the kids, the old people who want to sit down, the time flying by. By the time they get back to the motel and can actually read the brochure, it’s too late.

And the proof is in the pudding. No one was visiting RFK. While we agree with Arlington National Cemetery’s slogan: “Where Valor Proudly Sleeps,” we don’t think management should be proud of being asleep at the switch.

Sections: Attraction News, Rants 3 Comments » Team Field Report

Unheralded Grave of Robert Kennedy

Arlington National Cemetery

Sheridan Dr., Arlington, VA
Arlington National Cemetery
Daily summer 8-7, off-season 8-5 Local health policies may affect hours and access.
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3 Responses to “The Real Mix-up At Arlington: Where’s RFK?”

  1. Mike Says:
    August 5th, 2010 at 3:52 pm

    Don’t be too hard on these guys, as a whole they do a fabulous job, especially when helping the families of the Vets.

  2. Deej Says:
    November 10th, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    US Senator, US Attorney General, presidential candidate…and a Kennedy.

    Sure seems like someone could make a little more effort. Of all the Kennedys, RFK was the one I admired the most.

    When next in DC, I, for one, will make an effort.

  3. Ken Says:
    November 26th, 2010 at 7:38 pm

    But, not a veteran. So , somewhat understandably, not a priority in a military cemetery.

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