Thursday, December 08, 2011
There are no plans, they said, to alert those families now.
Air Force and Pentagon officials said last month that determining how many remains went to the landfill would require searching through the records of more than 6,300 troops whose remains have passed through the mortuary since 2001. "It would require a massive effort and time to recall records and research individually," Jo Ann Rooney, the Pentagon’s acting undersecretary for personnel....
Regarding that last, though, the Washington Post article does not make clear whether this is a statement that further identifications will take time or an effort to decline to make the further identifications.
Have you ever had to sort through the debris of an IED explosion, Aegon?
Yeah, neither have I.
It's hardly rocket science to assert that a civilized society should not be dumping even unidentifiable fragments of what were once human beings into garbage facilities.
On the other hand, it's hardly rocket science either to realize that when explosions happen, it's not always possible or practical to sift through every fragment of debris, DNA test it, carefully catalog it, and then track each fragment to ensure that it ends up in the proper casket.
So the idea that we should now pour over 6300 records to figure out who possibly could have been the owners of body fragments (we'll never know for sure, will we? So this settles nothing) long since disposed of strikes me as quixotic at best.
Like most military wives, I spent the nearly 5 years of long deployments rehearsing what I would say, do, and feel if my husband were killed. I wrote eulogies in my head countless times. I tried to decide in advance whether it would be smarter to request some kind of anti-depressant be prescribed proactively so I could get through the funeral and other death arrangements without being a burden to my kids or my parents or my in laws. I made sure I had a month's migraine meds secreted away because it's hard to think of anything more likely to induce a week of throwing up than learning that your husband has been blown to smithereens, and other grieving family members would be depending on me.
So I would really like to believe that, had he been killed in an explosion and had only part of his corpse been recovered, I would make some attempt to understand paragraphs like this:
This week, after The Post pressed for information contained in the Dover mortuary’s electronic database, the Air Force produced a tally based on those records. It showed that 976 fragments from 274 military personnel were cremated, incinerated and taken to the landfill between 2004 and 2008.
Assuming an equal number of fragments per "personnel", 976/274 comes to a little over 3 fragments per corpse.
An additional group of 1,762 unidentified remains were collected from the battlefield and disposed of in the same manner, the Air Force said. Those fragments could not undergo DNA testing because they had been badly burned or damaged in explosions.
It's not too hard to conclude that the wrong decision was probably made here. It's harder to take the time to understand (not necessarily excuse, just understand) that war presents us with situations that would be unimaginable to you or me.
I thank God I wasn't tasked with that job.