Air Force Soldiers Remains Dumped In A Landfill

This seemed like one of those articles that you read the headlines and think to yourself “Nah, it can’t really be about something like that.” The headlines read:

Air Force: Remains of service members went to landfill
Air Force dumped hundreds of remains of dead soldiers from Dover base into landfill: report

Pretty horrible, right? The Air Force is secretly taking the bodies of dead soldiers and dropping them in a mass grave. Well, not exactly. It’s more that the Air Force seems to somehow end up with “bone and soft tissue” at their mortuary at the Dover Air Base in Delaware. I’m not exactly sure how parts of a soldier’s body gets separated from the rest and I’m not sure I want to know. However, when the parts do get separated, unfortunately a bone is a bone is a bone. They can’t look at one and very easily identify its original owner. Sometimes due to the nature of the death, it is impossible.
Was this just a careless or arrogant mistake by a couple lab workers somewhere, looking to short-circuit a process? It would seem not.

In total, more than 2,700 incinerated body parts were chucked, according to Air Force records – though that number may just be the tip of the iceberg.

and they have been doing this for the years “between 2004 and 2008”.

One military widow told the Post that a mortuary official told her that the Air Force had been throwing cremated remains in landfills since at least 1996.

According to the Washington Post:

An additional group of 1,762 unidentified remains were collected from the battlefield and disposed of in the same manner, the Air Force said. Those fragments could not undergo DNA testing because they had been badly burned or damaged in explosions. The total number of incinerated fragments dumped in the landfill exceeded 2,700.

Fortunately, this process has stopped and not because the information finally got out.

because [in 2008] a new leadership team that included Gen. Norton Schwartz, the current Air Force chief of staff, decided that burial at sea was more dignified.
The first such burial of 14 urns of unclaimed remains took place earlier this year, he said.

The articles also mention that sometimes the family members refuse to claim the additional remains or as mentioned, they are unidentifiable. So what do you do with body parts that go unclaimed or you don’t know who they belong to? One thing I know you don’t do is dump them in a landfill. I’d even argue that a burial at sea is inappropriate.
Fortunately, the United States has a place for these soldiers, Arlington National Cemetery. Even if other proper steps were not followed along the way, when the information finally gets out about the soldier’s remains, if the final explanation is “We held a formal ceremony and they are respectfully buried at Arlington National Cemetery”, I don’t think many people would really have much of a problem with that result.

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Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
12 years ago

I think well of the military, that does not prevent me from recognizing that a large portion of it is simply bureaucracy. Without doubt, there was no room on the forms for “missing members”.

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