Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery

Arlington National Cemetery

Tips for getting things done.
Dec. 13 1997 3:30 AM

Arlington National Cemetery

Dying to get in? Here's how.

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Those honorably discharged before Oct. 1, 1949, for at least 30-percent disability.


The other rules read like the fine print on an insurance policy:

The spouse or unmarried child (21 years or younger) of those listed above or those already buried in Arlington. An unmarried dependent student qualifies before age 23, as does any adult child who acquired a physical or mental disability before age 21;

A veteran who is the parent, brother, sister, or child of an eligible person already interred. Interment must be in the same grave as the primary eligible, the veteran's spouse must waive his or her eligibility for Arlington, and the veteran can have no dependent children at the time of death.

Those not eligible include:

The remarried widower/widow of an eligible person, unless he/she is no longer married at death;

Those whose last discharge was less than honorable.

After adopting the new eligibility rules, the government established a waiver system for exceptions granted by the president, or by the secretary or high-ranking officials of the Army. Secretary of the Army Togo West has granted 58 exceptions since November 1993. High-ranking Army officials have granted seven during that time. President Clinton has granted four. The Carter administration granted 17 exceptions in four years, the Reagan administration 53 exceptions in eight years, and the Bush administration 34 exceptions in four years. West explains that the increased demand for Arlington plots helps account for the record number of waivers he has approved.

Ambassador Lawrence apparently lied about having served in the Merchant Marine during World War II. (Besides, the Merchant Marine is not a part of the armed forces.) Other ambassadors who did not serve in the military but are buried in Arlington anyway: Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John A. Scali (1995) and Arnold L. Raphel (1988; he died in an air crash while serving as ambassador to Pakistan). Other envoys who received burial waivers but did serve in the military: William R. Rivkin (1967), Cleo A. Noel Jr. (1973), Phillip K. Crowe (1976), and Adolph A. Dubs (1979).

Clinton's four waivers: Justice Thurgood Marshall; Elvera Burger, the widow of Chief Justice Warren Burger; Army veteran and Drug Enforcement Administration agent J.W. Seale, killed in Peru while on a mission; and Marine veteran and Washington, D.C., police officer Henry J. Daly, killed in a shootout.

Illustration by Robert Neubecker

While not a secret, the waiver program is not publicized, Secretary West has acknowledged. He outlined the waiver rules in a November press conference. Ambassadors who die in office merit consideration for a space in Arlington. Cemetery superintendent Metzler told the Washington Post that he would have recommended a waiver for Lawrence, "given the fact he died in office" and was "serving actively in a post at the time of his death." Also qualifying under waivers are U.S. government employees who are "killed in the course of their service to America," those who have performed "unique service" to the nation, and reservists who die while on active duty for training. "Humanitarian concerns" for the family requesting an Arlington burial are also acknowledged, said West, citing a World War I veteran who didn't automatically qualify under the rules but whom he would have waived in, and a Tuskegee airman who had flown 22 combat flights.