December 8, 2011…10:01pm

In Editorial on December 9, 2011 at 10:21 am

Show me the manner in which a nation cares for its dead and I will measure with mathematical exactness the tender mercies of its people, their respect for the laws of the land, and their loyalty to high ideals.” – Sir William Gladstone

My frequent musings concern things like, “At what precise moment in history did Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia, etc. slip from humanity and into barbarism.”  Last night, December 8, 2011 at 10:01pm, I felt the United States of America take its own tumble.

That was the precise time, the first time, I had heard that the remains of potentially 274 US service personnel killed in Americas current war(s) had been consigned to a landfill.

The Pentagon quickly points out that the “remains” were not intact bodies.  Rather, they were “unidentifiable fragments” and “body parts” that were cremated and then sent to the local dump.

Does it matter?

Earlier this year, surviving family members of those killed in the September 11, 2001 World Trade Center attacks voiced their concerns about city plans to move unidentifiable human remains from the attack to a planned museum having a $20 admission fee.  Their concerns, while entirely valid, pale when compared to the dumping of the remains of fallen military personnel into a landfill with the day’s garbage.

The Pentagon now assures us that similar remains will be cremated and “buried at sea”.


Is the Tomb of the Unknowns full?

The cremated remains of 274 intact adults would occupy about 32 cubic feet of volume.  Remember, Pentagon officials assured us that this matter involved “unidentifiable fragments” and “body parts”.  Therefore, the resulting volume of cremated remains, in these cases, would be expected to be much less.

According to the Pentagon, not all of the remains belong to “the unknown”, since DNA testing has all but eliminated any doubt about the identity of a deceased.  Some of the remains were “unwanted” by surviving relatives.  Some of the remains could also be classified dispassionately as “medical waste”.  Some fragments were in such poor condition that DNA testing would not be possible.

Again, does it matter?

Is the land these people allegedly died for so precious and rare that a small corner of a military cemetery could not be set aside for their dignified interment?  And, in many cases, surviving family members declining the return of some remains merely asked that the remains be “respectfully disposed of”.

Tossing them in with the garbage is not “respectful”…anywhere…anytime.

Air Force officials at Dover AFB and Pentagon staffers quickly pointed out that no laws were broken by mortuary staff.

That is, perhaps, the saddest part of this story.

The other night, as I left my local mass food retailer, I noticed a sign near the store’s entrance, “Don’t buy tobacco for minors.  It’s not just wrong.  It’s illegal.”

I turned to Mrs. Phyne Dyner and quipped, “I guess just because something is wrong isn’t enough to dissuade people from wrong behavior.  It isn’t really wrong, unless it’s illegal?

How barbarous!  How terribly sad.


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