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The International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association (ICCFA) has issued the following statement in response to the allegations of mishandling of remains at Dover Air Force Base. Portions of the below information were included in an article in today's edition of The Washington Post.
Recent news reports claim that, among other failures, unidentified human body parts of deceased service men and women were processed at the Dover Air Force Base mortuary, from 2003 to 2008, by cremating the remains and then disposing of them in a landfill.
If these reports are accurate, the disposition of the remains at a landfill violates every formal and informal professional standard for the respectful and dignified interment of the deceased. In particular, the ICCFA Cremation Guidelines require the respectful interment of not only the remains, but also of foreign material associated with human remains: "Non-bone fragment foreign material that was part of the deceased prior to cremation and recovered with the cremated remains, such as an internal prosthesis ... may be commingled with other material and shall be disposed of in a dignified manner, such as burial in a cemetery, in accordance with all applicable laws."
The federal government itself has established a long tradition of memorializing the unidentified remains of those who perish on active duty to their country in such monuments as the Tomb of the Unknowns. Therefore, it is inconceivable that a government agency responsible for the processing the remains of our military fatalities could even consider any site other than a dedicated cemetery for a final resting place for the earthly remnants of those who made the ultimate sacrifice. The fact that a landfill was selected as that final resting place is horrific.
ICCFA President Kenneth E. Varner, CCFE, stated: "American soldiers have risked their lives on the battlefield to recover the remains of their colleagues so their fallen comrades would be assured an honorable burial and memorial. I wonder what would happen if some of these veterans met with those people at Dover who were responsible for this practice? A spokesperson for the Air Force mortuary likened the policy to hospitals' procedures for disposing of medical waste such as amputated limbs. Of course, the difference is that hospitals are working to save lives, and the distinction should be obvious. Hopefully, this tragic practice at the Dover facility will serve as a catalyst to restore honor and dignity when a person's time in this world has ended."
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