Arlington Headstones in Creek Bed Catch Officials by Surprise

ARLINGTON, Va. -- Several discarded headstones recently discovered in a creek bed near Arlington National Cemetery have left Department of Defense officials scrambling for answers.

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell called the discovery "alarming and concerning."

Pentagon officials as well as officials at the Arlington National Cemetery had no idea about the existence of the headstones until they were made aware by a Washington Post story.

Arlington National Cemetery officials think the headstones were placed there to "prevent erosion on the creek bed," after being replaced and discarded, said Kaitlin Horst, a spokeswoman for Arlington National Cemetery.

"It's important to the new management to take corrective action but also make sure removing the headstones doesn't destabilize the environment in any way," she said.

Patrick Hallinan, the new superintendent of Arlington National Cemetery, released the following statement to Fox News:

“I met with representatives from the Army Corps of Engineers today to assess the environmental impact and determine the best course of action to removing dozens of decades-old marble headstones from in and around the creek bed near Section 28 of Arlington National Cemetery."

Hallinan went on to say that as soon as they decide on a course of action, they will reclaim the head stones and dispose of them according to cemetery policy.

"We'll do this right, in a deliberate fashion, and make certain serviceable and proper replacements are in place at any corresponding gravesites," said Hallinan.

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One of the headstones in question is inscribed with a cross with a circle around it, a style that was discontinued in the late 1980s, leading officials to believe some of these headstones may have been in that creek bed for several decades.

"This is not part of our current headstone disposal policy," said Horst.

The discovery is another black eye for the nation's most sacred veterans cemetery, which recently was revealed to have mishandled more than 200 graves.