Day two of bad news for the Air Force's vaunted mortuary affairs operation at Dover, Delaware, where our nation's war dead are lovingly and respectfully welcomed home. Yesterday we learned that the Air Force is known to lose a body part or two on occasion. Today we come to find that for most of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars it disposed of loose unidentified body parts by burning them and throwing them in a landfill.
From the Washington Post:
Air Force officials...said the procedure was limited to fragments or portions of body parts that were unable to be identified at first or were later recovered from the battlefield, and which family members had said could be disposed of by the military.
Lt. Gen. Darrell G. Jones, the Air Force's deputy chief for personnel, said the body parts were cremated, then incinerated, and then taken to a landfill by a military contractor. He likened the procedure to the disposal of medical waste.
Jones also could not estimate how many body parts were handled in this way. "That was the common practice at the time, and since then our practices have improved," he said.
So far no one has been fired in the growing debacle. It's horrible, disrespectful, and at odds with the military's professed reverence for the physical remains of its war dead. One solution would be to be to devote more resources to making sure the steady stream of remains are handled with care and sensitivity. Another would be to cut off the supply of dead bodies somehow.
[Image via Getty]