Arlington cemetery's longtime superintendent to retire in July

John Metzler Jr.'s father had previously held the same post.
John Metzler Jr.'s father had previously held the same post. (Jahi Chikwendiu/the Washington Post)
By Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 20, 2010

John C. Metzler Jr., Arlington National Cemetery's longtime superintendent, has announced that he is retiring, effective July 2, the cemetery said Thursday.

Metzler, 62, has been superintendent at the nation's most hallowed cemetery for 19 years. His father had held the job before him, from 1951 to 1972.

The younger Metzler essentially grew up in the superintendent's house and remembers standing in the crowd as a teenager with his mother, watching President John F. Kennedy's burial. Last summer, he helped oversee the burial of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, the president's brother.

Metzler, who served as a helicopter crew chief during the Vietnam War, has been superintendent since 1991. He has been involved in controversies over the cemetery's expansion, the condition of the Tomb of the Unknowns and the sheer volume of burials with the passing of the World War II generation.

Last fall, the Army launched an investigation into what Army Secretary John McHugh called the "lost accountability" of some graves, as well as poor recordkeeping and other issues.

The probe, which the Army indicated Wednesday is ongoing, came after reported what it said was a stark series of cemetery blunders, which included the temporary burial of one veteran's remains in the occupied grave of another and the discovery of an urn containing cremated remains that was dumped in piles of excess grave dirt.

Spokesmen for the Army and the cemetery said Wednesday that they could not comment on the investigation. Metzler could not be reached.

The cemetery, which surrounds Arlington House, once the home of Civil War Gen. Robert E. Lee, has an average of 27 funerals each workday and about a hundred funerals a week. More than 300,000 people are buried there, including two presidents, scores of generals and admirals, and tens of thousands of men and women who served in the U.S. military and their spouses and children.

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