Friday, December 09, 2011

Grow Bodies

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Air Force came in for heavy criticism Thursday over its handling of the remains of America's war dead, including complaints that it has not been upfront about the extent of the problem. The criticism came after the service said it had dumped cremated partial remains of at least 274 troops into a Virginia landfill — far more than previously acknowledged. "It's not just that they're stonewalling people who ask," Democratic Rep. Rush Holt of New Jersey said of queries made by him, as well as families, investigators, about Air Force mortuary practices. "I think they don't want to face up to it." The revelation on the landfill adds to the gruesome narrative that has unfolded since the Air Force announced last month that an investigation found "gross mismanagement" at its mortuary at Dover, Del., the first stop on American soil for fallen troops coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan. That investigation said that among other problems, small body parts of U.S. troops had been lost on two occasions. On the separate issue of sending remains to a dump, the Air Force had previously said it didn't know how many troops' remains had been disposed of that way, they implied that it was small, and they said they couldn't provide a number without a massive and lengthy examination of records. Officials called a late afternoon press conference Thursday to explain themselves after The Washington Post reported in Thursday editions that the number was 976 fragments of remains from 274 troops. "We regret any additional grief to families that past practices may have caused," Lt. Gen. Darrell D. Jones, deputy chief of staff for manpower, told reporters, emphasizing that the practice has ended. - PAULINE JELINEK

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