The grave of a U.S. Air Force veteran who grew up in Queens Village was among the more than 200 graves mismanaged at Arlington National Cemetery.
Master Sgt. Marion Grabe, who died of an aneurysm on Christmas Day in 2007 at age 63, was buried in 2008 in the same plot of another military member — only for the operators of the cemetery to move her to another grave without informing her family.
“They did not notify me,” said Dorothy Nolte, Grabe’s sister, who lives in Tennessee. “We weren’t even notified of the new grave site.”
Grabe said the mistake was discovered by the widow of a man buried underneath Grabe’s urn when she wondered why there was a different headstone.
The mishandling of the more than 200 graves came to light last week when it was reported by salon.com, which revealed that there were no computer databases to track the hundreds of thousands of veterans interred at Arlington.
The superintendent at Arlington, who had announced he would retire prior to the story coming out, was reprimanded by U.S. Secretary of the Army John McHugh.
“There are 300,000 people wondering exactly where their loved ones are supposed to be,” Nolte said. “You probably need a new personnel in there to institute a computer system.”
Grabe “gave 26 years of her life to her country and she deserved better,” Nolte said.
Nolte described her sister as a “very plain and simple, happy-go-lucky person” who joined the military at 18.
“She decided that that was a very good course for her,” Nolte said. “It was her life. She loved the military and she always held it in high esteem.”
Grabe, who grew up in Queens Village and attended Martin Van Buren High School, was stationed in the Philippines during the Vietnam War, where she was an operating room nurse.
Although Grabe retired in 1989, she served as a military nurse in Oklahoma during Desert Storm.
Nolte said her sister never married and did not have children but loved animals and encouraged people to donate to the Humane Society.
Nolte said she visited the cemetery last year to ensure her sister was buried the proper way.
“I found my peace,” she said.
Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz
©2010 Community News Group
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