Air Force will not inform families of landfill remains

Responding to press revelations that the remains of hundreds of additional U.S. troops ended up in a landfill, an Air Force official said that the military regretted the pain the news may cause their families, but that the Pentagon would not inform them in order to honor their original wishes.

"We regret any additional grief to the families that past practices may have caused," said Air Force Lt. Gen. Darrell Jones, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel, and services, in a briefing at the Pentagon. On Thursday, The Washington Post reported that the remains of 274 people ultimately ended up in the landfill, not just one as was previously known. Jones said that Air Force records indicated that all 274 families had signed documents indicating they did not want to be informed of the disposition of any additional remains of the deceased service members.

"To go back now and notify them would be going against their wishes," Jones said. Instead, families of any fallen troops can call Dover's hotline (1-855-637-2583), or e-mail officials at dover.pm@pentagon.af.mil) and determine whether their deceased service members' remains were among the 274. To date, the hotline has received 10 calls.

Jones said that between 2003 and 2008, "fragments" of remains, often from blast victims, were taken under escort for cremation and then delivered to a private contractor -- the last point of contact for the military. The contractor then incinerated the cremated remnants and disposed of whatever was left as "medical waste" in a county landfill. Jones insisted that the process was "common industry practice," which the Washington Post report has disputed.

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