June 13th, 2010
08:00 AM ET

Letter to the President #510: 'The shame at Arlington'

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://www.cnn.com/video/us/2010/06/10/lawrence.mismarked.graves.cnn.640×360.jpg caption="I know the Army says it is on top of this matter now and committed to fixing the problems. But you and I both know it should have never reached this point." width=300 height=169]

Reporter's Note: A scandal at Arlington National Cemetery is probably the last thing President Obama wanted to hear about. But problems, like my letters, sometimes arrive when you least want them.

Dear Mr. President,

I don’t really care what happens to me after I die. I’ve thought about it from time to time, of course, and I’ve had a few funereal inspirations. It would be nice if someone played St. James Infirmary on the piano, maybe with a trumpet too. (Um…probably not the same person, however. That would get a little carnival-ish.) I’d like to have some poetry read; maybe Grass by Sandburg. Or the Cat in the Hat, by Suess. And snacks would be good. But beyond that, I don’t have much of an opinion about the matter, and when it comes around I suppose I’ll have even less to say.

Funerals and burials, I think, are more about the living folks than those who have passed on anyway; it’s how we express our grief, respect, and remembrance of those we have lost. Which is why this mess out at Arlington National Cemetery is so tragic.

You know that I have only the greatest respect for people who put on uniforms to serve our country, and I have a soft spot for military families, since I grew up in one. I think what they do can be unbelievably tough, and heaven knows for many of them that has been particularly true in recent years. The least we can do as a nation is hold up our part of the bargain.