Nightly News | December 08, 2011
WILLIAMS: Good evening.
BRIAN WILLIAMS, anchor: Imagine your husband or son or brother or your mother or sister or daughter served this country in uniform overseas in wartime and, God forbid , imagine they made the ultimate sacrifice and paid with their life. We've all been assured that if that happens, their remains are at least treated with great care and the utmost respect every step of the way. Sadly, we are now learning that's just not true in all cases. A scandal is unraveling in Washington and elsewhere about how some of our service members' remains have been treated. And we start off tonight with our Pentagon correspondent, Jim Miklaszewski .
JIM MIKLASZEWSKI reporting: Dover Air Force Base is the first stop for all of America 's war dead on their final trip back home. But behind the dignified ceremony there's a growing scandal over the fact that many partial remains of US service members were unceremoniously dumped in this Virginia landfill, and it's a far greater number than previously disclosed. Over four years, the Air Force dumped more than 2700 cremated partial remains in the landfill. Nearly 1,000 of those remains had been identified through DNA , belonging to 274 US military killed in the wars.
MIKLASZEWSKI: Yet the Air Force never informed service members' families of the practice. Sergeant 1st Class Scott Smith was killed in Iraq in 2006 . His widow, Gari-Lynn , was shocked to learn only recently that some of her husband's remains are buried in that landfill.
Ms. GARI-LYNN SMITH: Absolutely mortified. Just -- I was so angry and I felt betrayed by my -- you know, by these people down at Dover .
MIKLASZEWSKI: Air Force officials struggled today to explain how human remains could be cremated, then dumped right along with medical waste .
Lieutenant General DARRELL JONES (Air Force Deputy Chief, Personnel): How you dispose of medical waste ...
Representative RUSH HOLT (Democrat, New Jersey): They just don't get it.
MIKLASZEWSKI: Congressman Rush Holt says he's been trying to get to the bottom of the Dover issue for months and suggests the Air Force tried to cover it up.
Rep. HOLT: It is such an obvious, flagrant desecration that if they didn't know it, they didn't want to know it.
MIKLASZEWSKI: It's not the only problem at Dover . Partial remains of some service members have been lost. And in one case, the mutilated arm was sawed off a deceased Marine so his uniform would fit for burial. All this follows the startling revelations that Army personnel at Arlington National Cemetery had buried some veterans in the wrong graves or lost their remains altogether. There are two ongoing investigations here at the Pentagon into Dover , and Air Force officials said today they will apologize to those 274 families involved in the landfill controversy, but only if they call. Brian :
WILLIAMS: Unbelievable story. Jim Miklaszewski with the news out of the Pentagon tonight. Jim , thanks.