STANDING UP FOR THE FALLEN, AND FOR THEIR FAMILIES “Losing a loved one is one of the hardest things anybody will ever go through, and to make it more difficult by showing a lack of concern for the well-being of not only the dead but the living was unconscionable.” So said Gina Gray, who ought to know. After working in Iraq as an Army contractor and Army public affairs specialist, Gray took on the job of Public Affairs Director at Arlington National Cemetery. In April 2008 she was present at the funeral of a soldier killed in Iraq. She knew that the soldier’s family had granted permission for press coverage, but for some reason the media were being kept 50 yards away from the service: no photographs allowed, no coverage allowed. Gray asked Deputy Superintendent Thurman Higginbotham, who was also present at the funeral, why he had countermanded the family’s wishes; she got no satisfactory answer. “The stories need to be told,” she said. “The families have earned the right to have their loved ones’ story told.” Gray told Higginbotham he was wrong, refused to sign off on a report of the funeral she believed to be false, and soon thereafter began learning of other misdeeds by Arlington management. She went through the standard channels to complain: She told the commanding general of the Military District of Washington of her concerns, which included misplaced graves, mishandled remains, financial mismanagement, favoritism (the awarding of contracts, the granting of choice burial spots), and fraud. Two days later, she was fired. Soon after that, Gray passed along the relevant information to three different congressional offices. Those offices asked the Army what was going on; the Army said, Why, nothing, everything is just fine. Then Gray went to the media and to the Inspector General; eventually, the managers at Arlington, including Higginbotham, were fired. But that was too late for Gray’s career. Although she was officially designated as a whistle blower, the Inspector General’s report concluded that she wasn’t terminated because of her official complaints because management hadn’t known of those complaints when they fired her. Nonetheless, an internal document from the Pentagon asserts that Arlington National Cemetery management “demonstrated an obvious failure” when they fired Gray. Gray then filed a lawsuit but had to drop it because she couldn’t afford the legal fees. As Gray said, “Had I just gone along with it and not said regulations were being violated, I’m sure I’d still be there.” Gray thus joins the ranks of other Giraffe whistle blowers who sacrificed their livelihood to expose an injustice. And her motivation is very similar to the others’: “My parents raised me to do the right thing, regardless of the consequences, and that is exactly what I did.” Update: After spending several more years working for another federal agency, she became "fed up with the smoke and mirrors of Washington, D.C.," and moved to North Carolina to volunteer full time for a nonprofit organization that works to provide wounded warriors with top-level, professional rehabilitative training. "It is a rewarding and challenging endeavor, but one that is incredibly fulfilling,” says Gray. "I have yet to find employment, but am focusing on the positive aspects the move has given me: a healthier, well-rounded life surrounded by people I love."