So he made an appointment with Costanzo, who showed him three spots that he and his wife might like. “The fact that I was a congressman certainly cut some ice,” Whitehurst said.
As they passed a section full of admirals and other high-ranking officials, Whitehurst joked to his wife that they should be buried there so passersby would wonder, “How did this squab get buried among all these flag officers?”
But his wife said she wanted to be buried near a tree. So Costanzo took them to a spot “up the hill from Joe Louis and within shouting distance of the [Memorial] Amphitheater.”
“It’s like the maitre d’ from the Lion D’Or,” Whitehurst said, referring to a French restaurant that was frequented by Washington power players.
About 10 years ago, he said, his wife decided they should be cremated and interred in the columbarium at their church.
“I did in fact write to the [Arlington] superintendent and said, ‘You can give that plot to somebody else,’ ” he said.
Kathryn Condon, who was appointed executive director of the Army National Cemeteries Program last year in the aftermath of the scandal, said the cemetery will honor reservations made before 1962 as long as the deceased meet current eligibility requirements. She said that the cemetery refuses to accept reservations made after 1962 but that officials try to accommodate families’ wishes on burial locations.
There are 3,500 reservations on file. But Condon said it is unclear how many of those are valid. Officials aren’t sure whether everyone on the list is alive — some reservations date to the late 1800s — or still wants to be buried at Arlington.
Cemetery officials have pledged to sort through every reservation, but Warner said his legislation would ensure that gets done.
“What we’re saying is, you’ve got to follow the rules,” he said. “Some general shouldn’t be able to say, ‘See that plot under the tree with the view? That’s the one I want.’ ”