The Air Force expressed regrets Thursday for any grief to surviving family members caused by a previous mortuary practice in which incinerated partial remains of service members were deposited in a landfill.
Air Force officials said that partial remains — mostly soft tissue and bone fragments — of some service members had been cremated, incinerated and dumped in the landfill by a contractor. The families were not notified because they had signed forms telling the Air Force that they did not wish to be informed of additional remains subsequently recovered from the war zone.
Air Force officials said many families of the war dead ask not to be told if more remains are found, presumably because memorial services have been held and survivors are seeking some sense of closure.
In November, it was reported that the partial remains of military personnel had been dumped in a Virginia landfill before the procedure was halted by the Air Force in 2008. On Thursday, The Washington Post reported that the remains of at least 274 troops had been put in the landfill, far more than the military had acknowledged earlier.