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National disgrace: Air Force dumps ashes of fallen soldiers into Virginia landfill

The Washington Post reports that 976 fragments from 274 war dead were cremated, incinerated and taken to the King George County landfill in Virginia  between 2004 and 2008. The total number of incinerated fragments dumped in the landfill exceeded 2,700.

When a young man or woman signs up to serve in the military, many do so out of family tradition and a sense of honor; others to earn a living, feed their family and to fund their education. They put their lives on the line, taking orders from officials who tell them that when the military must bring home its fallen members, their remains are treated utmost levels of dignity and honor.

Well, not all of them. In fact, what the Air Force has done with the remains of who-knows-how-many war dead ranks as such a disgusting level of betrayal that it’s hard to believe someone up the food chain contemplated, let alone gave an ok, for this:

The Air Force dumped the incinerated partial remains of at least 274 American troops in a Virginia landfill, far more than the military had acknowledged, before halting the secretive practice three years ago, records show.

The landfill dumping was concealed from families who had authorized the military to dispose of the remains in a dignified and respectful manner, Air Force officials said. There are no plans, they said, to alert those families now.

The Air Force had maintained that it could not estimate how many troops might have had their remains sent to a landfill. The practice was revealed last month by The Washington Post, which was able to document a single case of a soldier whose partial remains were sent to the King George County landfill in Virginia. The new data, for the first time, show the scope of what has become an embarrassing episode for vaunted Dover Air Base, the main port of entry for America’s war dead.

The landfill disposals were never formally authorized under military policies or regulations. They also were not disclosed to senior Pentagon officials who conducted a high-level review of cremation policies at the Dover mortuary in 2008, records show.

Bullsh*t. Nothing happens in the military unless someone signs off on it.  Are we supposed to believe that some low-level functionary said “Hey, let’s find a way to save a few bucks…”  Lt. Gen. Darrell D. Jones, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for personnel said there was no intent to deceive. Right. Well, where were the letters or calls to families?

In fact the practice wasn’t some one-time dump of remains. By the way, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that these horrors transpired between 2004 and 2008, on the watch of President George W. Bush, during a time where the Dover mortuary was not under public scrutiny because of the ban on news coverage of those solemn ceremonies of the American-flag-draped coffins returning home. That ban was instituted by his daddy in 1991 before the Persian Gulf war.

And as horrific as the thought of the remains of your relative, friend, colleague, neighbor being treated this way, last month it was revealed, as a result of a separate federal investigation the mortuary, that body parts recovered from bomb blasts were treated like carcasses in a slaughterhouse — stacked up in coolers in the morgue, unidentified for months, even years.

What is wrong with people? Where is our moral compass? How can the Air Force treat its war dead worse than most of us would treat the family dog when it passes away?


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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding

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