Dover Mortuary 'Failed' Grieving Families

Article excerpt

Reports in November that the Air Force's main mortuary for troops killed overseas had mishandled remains sparked outrage from VFW.

"We demand that the Pentagon and the Air Force get to the bottom of this, to hold accountable those directly responsible and to ensure necessary controls are in place and followed to never permit such disrespectful incidents to ever occur again/' VFW Commander-inChief Richard De Noyer said.

The "disrespectful incidents" include dumping portions of incinerated remains in a Virginia landfill from 2003-08.

On Nov. 9, the Air Force acknowledged the procedure, saying it was limited to disposal of unidentifiable fragments of body parts that were later recovered. The Air Force added that the families of the deceased troops had agreed to the practice. At issue, though, is whether the families knew specifically that the remains would be disposed of in a landfill. The Air Force handled the partial remains of at least 274 U.S. troops in this manner.

But the Air Force also confirmed specific incidents such as losing a dead soldier's ankle and an unidentified body part recovered from an air crash; sawing off a deceased Marine's arm so the body could fit into a casket; and improperly storing and tracking other remains. None of these incidents were reported to the families.

After an 18 -month investigation, the Air Force disciplined three officials at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware- the main entry point for America's war dead- for "gross mismanagement. …