ARLINGTON NATIONAL CEMETERY, Va. (Dec. 28, 2011) -- Day or night, rain or shine, these men had a mission to complete.
Soldiers with Delta Company, 1st Battalion, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), finished photographing and documenting the location of every tombstone, grave marker and cremation site in Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Dec. 23, 2011.
"We are calling ourselves Task Force Christman, after Private William Christman, who was the first Soldier buried here," said Maj. Nate Peterson, commander, Delta Company. "The primary purpose of this process is to establish an accountability of all remains in Arlington National Cemetery. The cemetery dates back to 1874 when the cemetery was run by Union Soldiers who just had bad record keeping practices over the years. What we are doing is verifying what's on record and correcting anything that's not."
Peterson added the detailed information will be housed in a large electronic database. Over a period of a few months, the task force dedicated numerous hours to cover the more than 259,000 sites spread across 624 developed acres of the cemetery.
"Our unit walked over every inch of the cemetery taking pictures of the front and back of every tombstone. We also tagged every site with a GPS locater with its section and grave number," said Spc. Al Carney, an infantryman with Delta Co.
It was evident for Carney the importance of the completion of this task.
"What we are doing here is for the families of the fallen because it helps pay respect and keeps track of where they lay," said Carney.
Like Carney, the demeanor of every Soldier involved in the documentation process was very focused and solemn.
"This mission is taken very seriously by the Army," said Peterson. "How we conduct ourselves as professionals in the military is the same attitude we carry here taking pictures."
With the process now over, Peterson said he is proud to have honored our nation's heroes in such an exceptional way.
"This is an unprecedented mission because it has never been done before and it probably will never be done again," said Peterson. "What we are doing is paying tribute to our fallen comrades."