The outrage over the gross mismanagement of the remains of U.S. troops at Dover Air Force base is centering on two unfortunate aspects: dishonor for America's war dead and the way the mortuary's well-meaning whistle-blowers were treated. Yesterday, The Washington Post reported that the remains of troops were burned and the ashes were dumped into a Virginia landfill between 2003 and 2008—a process that was "typically withheld from the relatives of the fallen service member":
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.
The initial response to the story centered on a reflection on how America cares for its fallen soldiers. An editorial in the New Jersey's Star-Ledger says the disgrace can't be tolerated. "Dover AFB is considered military sacred ground, where the war dead are brought home with all the honors and pomp reflecting their supreme sacrifice," the editorial board writes. "With these revelations, a ritual of war has been exposed as a sham with few standards and little quality control. All those who profess their pride and support for the troops should express their outrage. Wearing a flag pin isn’t enough. We need to get this right." James Joyner at Outside the Beltway added "This is truly appalling. While I’m not overly sentimental about the treatment of dead bodies, it’s an incredibly sensitive matter for most."
The article also prompted calls from legislators, including statements from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senator Susan Collins, ranking Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee and Senator Claire McCaskill. Pelosi said "We will do everything possible to strengthen oversight and prevent future injustices” while in a separate statement Collins said it was "truly outrageous to learn that some of those entrusted to handle the remains of our fallen heroes may have compromised a sacred trust.”