For families who have already received the knock on the door from military officials telling them that their loved one is dead the news couldn’t get much worse or could it? Air Force officials have for years been labeling servicemen and women as medical waste and sending them to a landfill all while the Air Force denied knowing what happened to “lost remains.” With the help of whistle-blowers who thought the policy was disgusting the Air Force had to admit to sending some remains to the landfill but a new revelation this week has forced the Air Force to admit to dumping more
medical waste service members into the trash.
The Air Force has now admitted to dumping partial remains (sometimes all that is left) of 274 men and women into a landfill in Virginia. The controversial policy that the AF claimed to have stopped 2 years ago meant that remains “not claimed” were destined for the dump after being cremated. However as one spouse detailed to the Associated Press she wasn’t given a choice to claim her husbands remains. Gari-Lynn Smith tried to find out what happened to her husbands remains for over four years. Sgt. 1st Class Scott R. Smith, a bomb-disposal technician, stepped on a explosive device in Iraq and was killed. Several of his limbs were lost as was much of his torso but Gari-Lynn thought all of her husband was returned home. She became suspicious of what officials were telling her after she was told not to see the body before the closed casket funeral. After the funeral she demanded autopsy copies she learned that other remains had been located.
Four years after learning that parts of her husband were still above ground the Air Force sent her a reply stating that the remaining parts of her husband had been cremated and sent to a landfill.
While families have signed the form many find themselves wondering how the Department of Defense determined a landfill was an appropriate place to put parts of people who sacrificed their lives for the country. The practice of throwing remains into the trash had been implemented in 1996 as far as records uncovered have indicated and the Air Force opted in 2008 to give the remains a burial at sea. When the practice came to light the Air Force decided to “discipline” three supervisors at the Dover AFB mortuary but they did not fire anyone. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta has since ordered the Pentagon to review that decision but a new one isn’t likely to come until the press dies down.
While the practice has been replaced for a burial at sea this should have Congressional investigation written all over it. While current records show the practice was put in place in 1996 the Air Force has done a masterful job at trying to cover its ass and I for one would want to know how unclaimed remains have been handled as far back as possible. Has it been standard operation procedure to casually label body parts medical waste and not have a proper count of how many people you have disposed of?