Just a day after the horrible revelations that the Air Force mortuary at Dover Air Force Base grossly mishandled America’s returning war dead, the Washington Post drops another terrible bombshell: Service members’ cremated remains were given a final resting place in a Virginia dump.
Yes, nothing says honoring the service of U.S. soldiers quite like tossing their cremated ashes into a landfill.
Unbeknownst to surviving family members, the practice occurred from 2003 to 2008, when it was put to a stop. The remains from cremated body parts are now are disposed of at sea, Air Force Chief of Public Affairs Brig. Gen. Les Kodlick told CNN.
Another Air Force official emphasized that these situations did not involve bodies but “parts of bone and other DNA material.” And yet another officer likened the practice to the disposal of medical waste.
“The common practice was that any residual matter remaining after incineration was disposed of by the contractor in a landfill,” Kodlick said. “We could have done it better,” he added.
Indeed they could have. Admittedly, this sounds much worse than it probably was.
“My only peace of mind in losing my husband was that he was taken to Dover and that he was handled with dignity, love, respect and honor,” Gari-Lynn Smith said. “That was completely shattered for me when I was told that he was thrown in the trash.”
Smith’s husband’s remains were disposed of in the landfill after his 2006 death in Iraq. She only learned of this in a letter written to her this spring by an official at Dover mortuary. Is there anything worse than hearing a deceased soldier’s wife say she was “shattered” because her husband was “thrown in the trash?” That’s heartbreaking.
Again, we said it before, but it bears repeating: If you ask soldiers to fight in a war, what you owe them doesn’t end in the battlefield or with a monthly paycheck.