The day after the Washington Post ran a shocking photograph of a headstone discarded in a stream at Arlington National Cemetery—part of an ongoing investigation into shoddy burial and maintenance practices there—the paper has followed up with a story at the top of the Metro section, identifying the headstone . In a breathless, you-are-there lead by writer Christian Davenport, the Post tells the story of the previous story in the Post:
It was around lunchtime Thursday when Mike McLaughlin settled into a chair in his family room and opened the newspaper. There, on the front page, was a photograph of a burial marker lying in a stream at Arlington National Cemetery and an article that led to a sudden realization.
“This is my father’s tombstone,” he called out to his wife.
Then he became, as he said, “unglued.” How could his father – who dropped out of college to serve in World War I, rejoined the Navy the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor at the age of 44 and then served again during the Korean War – be so dishonored?
After six more paragraphs of weepy outrage, and well after the jump, Davenport gets around to explaining how the dishonor of Navy captain J. Warren McLaughlin, who died and was buried in Arlington in 1971, came to pass:
After his wife, Elizabeth, died four years later, the cemetery ordered a new headstone and engraved both names on it, said Kaitlin Horst, a cemetery spokeswoman. That headstone is still there today, in Section 47. The old headstone was discarded and somehow ended up in the stream, along with many others. It was still unclear Thursday how they ended up there or why.
In other words, Mike McLaughlin’s father’s headstone is … on his grave in Arlington National Cemetery, where it has been for 35 years. The old stone discarded in the river is meaningless surplus. Next to the real stories of soldiers’ graves going unmarked, mismarked, or lost, this self-congratulatory nothing of a story is meaningless surplus, too.