In what is being hailed a national disgrace, the Air Force has dumped the ashes of at least 274 service members into a Virginia landfill. Records produced by the Air Force and published in The Washington Post, showed that 976 fragments from 274 military personnel were cremated, incinerated and taken to the landfill between 2004 and 2008.
If that were not heartrending enough, the Air Force confirmed 1,762 additional unidentified remains were collected from the battlefield and disposed of in the very same manner. According to the Post, those fragments had been too badly burned in explosions to undergo DNA testing, pushing the total number of cremated fragments dumped in the landfill above 2,700. Records reveal the extent of the dumping was far worse than what the military had previously acknowledged.
Meanwhile, Lt. Gen. Darrell D. Jones, the Air Force’s deputy chief of staff for personnel, said there was no intent to deceive. “Absolutely not,” he said.
The Post adds:
The Air Force said it first cremated the remains and then included those ashes in larger loads of mortuary medical waste that were burned in an incinerator and taken to a landfill. Incinerating medical waste is a common disposal practice but including cremated human ashes is not, according to funeral home directors, regulators and waste haulers.
Air Force officials said they do not know when the landfill disposals began. They said their first record of it is Feb. 23, 2004. The mortuary database became operational in late 2003.
The Air Force said mortuary leaders decided to end the practice in May 2008 because “there was a better way to do it,” Jones said. The military now cremates unclaimed and unidentified body parts and buries the ashes at sea.
To further the indignity, separate federal investigation of the mortuary last month revealed “gross mismanagement” and documented how recovered body parts were stacked in the morgue’s coolers for months and even years before being identified and disposed of.
The landfill dumping was hidden from fallen soldiers' families who had authorized the military to dispose of their loved ones' remains in a dignified manner, Air Force officials said. But The Post adds:
Jones said the Air Force did not need to inform relatives of troops whose remains ended up in the landfill because they had already signed forms stipulating that they did not wish to be notified if additional remains were identified. The forms authorized the military to make “appropriate disposition” of those subsequent remains.
Asked if the landfill was a dignified final resting place, Jones replied: “The way we’re doing it today is much better.”
To read the full, disturbing report, please click here.