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Making sure all are present, accounted for

By The Mercury

A military team is at work this week verifying the accuracy of records and identifications of bodies buried in the Fort Riley Cemetery.

The team from the Army’s Installation Management Command began work May 13 to capture headstone images and review burial records as part of an Army-wide gravesite accountability initiative. The idea is to ensure that all decedents are property identified and commemorated.

The eventual goal is 100-percent accountability of more than 40,000 graves at 27 cemeteries in 17 locations by June 30.

The process incorporates many new technologies, including a customized smartphone app to take photos of both the front and back of each grave marker, the Army Mapper tool to capture coordinates of each grave marker location and a web-based research tool – developed and managed by the Army Analytics Group – to validate the information.

“This work honors all those who rest in the Fort Riley Post Cemetery,” Col. William Clark, garrison commander said. “Visitors will know their loved ones are treated with dignity and respect and are in an environment befitting their sacrifice.”

The Army-wide gravesite accountability effort started in 2011, at the direction of the Secretary of the Army.

It followed a model used at Arlington National Cemetery, where more than 300,000 gravesites were validated after disclosure that some had been mis-identified.

The result will include an online, searchable database of interment information and grave marker images viewable by the public as well as a smart phone app that will allow cemetery visitors to easily locate grave locations.

“The accountability mission leads to sustainable, standardized cemetery operations and enhances the visitor experience,” John McGee, Fort Riley’s Post Cemetery operations representative said.

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