Troops being treated like trash

December 15, 2011





War makes people do crazy things. Whether it’s from being directly involved or watching the action from your living room couch, it creates chaos and causes strong emotion to arise in even the sanest individuals.


I tend to stay away from news involving fallen soldiers. Being so close to the holidays, this sort of news usually agitates me. However, when I see a headline that reads “Air Force dumped ashes of more troops’ remains in Va. landfill than acknowledged,” I find it difficult to pull my eyes away from the story.


According to an article on The Washington Post website, last month it was revealed the Air Force disposed of the partial remains of American troops in a landfill. Records show that at least 274 soldiers’ remains were incinerated and buried in the landfill. This number is higher than what the Air Force originally declared.


If that is not disturbing enough, the article goes on to explain how the landfill dumping was concealed from the families of the fallen troops.


According to the article, Air Force officials said that the families authorized the military to dispose of the remains in an honorable manner. As of right now, there are plans to alert these families.


I found it appalling when I learned the landfill disposals were not formally approved under military policies or regulations. The remains being dump in the landfill were also concealed from senior Pentagon officials who conducted a review of cremation policies at the Dover Air Force Base, the main entry point for America’s dead war heroes.


Institutions such as Westboro Baptist Church can get away with disrespecting an American military member, but these women and men deserve nothing but respect from the fellow members of the military for whom they work. In a case where troops are being dumped into a landfill, respect is grossly lacking.


What makes this situation more disturbing is that since the Post’s original discovery, an additional 1,762 remains were collected and disposed of in the same manner. Those remains could not undergo DNA testing because they were too damaged. The numbers of incinerated fragments in the landfill now exceed 2,700.


Both Air Force and Pentagon officials said last month that determining the exact number of remains would require searching through more than 6,300 records that date back to 2001.


“It would require a massive effort and time to recall records and research individually,” wrote Jo Ann Rooney, the Pentagon’s acting undersecretary for personnel wrote in a Nov. 22 letter to Rep. Rush D. Holt (D-N.J), according to the Post.


It angers me to read that after these troops have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, all they received in return was to have their remains brought back and buried like garbage.


This was not meant to be a wholesale lashing of the military. What they do for their country is admirable, and I give them nothing but praise. With that said, this was written to enlighten others on the secretive and disrespectful actions of a few within the armed forces.


Take the time to consider the families who were never able to give their dead relative a proper burial or goodbye. Our hearts go out to these families who don’t have a grave to place flowers on during holidays and on birthdays.


While you’re spending Christmas with your family, be aware of those who have spent years asking questions about a loved one’s whereabouts only to receive a letter saying the remains were dumped in a landfill along with hundreds of others. These families are the ones being cheated.


With President Barack Obama’s promise of troops returning for the holidays, I can only hope that it puts an end to the deaths and disrespect the members of the American military have endured through this incident over the last decade.


Mary Timmons is a senior journalism major from Logansport who serves as editor-in-chief for The Tech Talk. Email comments to mnt005@latech.edu.


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