Akaka urges care in altering Arlington The senator seeks a report on any plans for its revered tomb

27 September 2007

Like the Liberty Bell, the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery is cracked, but an amendment sponsored by Democratic Senator Daniel Akaka would require a report to Congress before it is replaced or repaired.

The measure was tacked onto the larger National Defense Authorization Act yesterday as part of a package of Senate amendments.

“We must move with great caution before making any decisions that would irrevocably affect this national treasure,” Akaka said. “Many believe it is a symbol that cannot be replicated and should be considered in the same vein as other imperfect symbols of our heritage such as the Liberty Bell and the star-spangled banner, the flag that inspired our national anthem.”

The amendment seeks a report on the plans for the monument from the secretary of the Army and the secretary of veterans affairs.

Specifically, it would require the secretaries to provide Congress with a description of efforts to maintain and preserve the monument and an assessment of whether it could be repaired rather than replaced. If the intention is to replace the monument, the secretaries would have to tell Congress how they plan to dispose of the current monument.

Akaka's measure also would prevent any move to replace the monument until 180 days after Congress received the report.

“Our amendment does not preclude the secretaries from replacing the monument at the Tomb of the Unknowns in the future, but seeks to ensure that we move with great caution,” Akaka said.

The measure's co-sponsor, Senator Jim Webb, D-Virginia, said he was pleased that a decision to replace the memorial had been postponed.

“Since World War I the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has served to commemorate and immortalize those who never returned from the battlefield,” Webb said. “Though cracked, this monument represents the patriotic spirit of all of the brave unidentified men and women who have fought and died in America's wars.”

The tomb is guarded 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

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