NJ Soldier's Remains Among Those Dumped in Virginia Landfill

His wife's inquiries exposed an Air Force practice of dumping soldier remains.

View Comments ()
|
Email
|
Print

    NEWSLETTERS

    After a New Jersey woman's inquiries into what happened to her soldier husband's body parts led to a massive exposure of the Air Force's practice of dumping soldier remains in a landfill, she is now pressing for more answers. (Published Friday, Dec 9, 2011)

    After a New Jersey woman's inquiries into what happened to her soldier husband's body parts led to a massive exposure of the Air Force's practice of dumping soldier remains in a landfill, she is now pressing for more answers.

    A Washington Post investigation revealed that the Air Force had dumped the remains of 274 service members into a Virginia landfill over a number of years. Gari Lynn Smith of Frenchtown, N.J., wants to know how that could happen to the U.S. troops who sacrificed their lives for the country.

    Her husband was one of those soldiers whose remains were dumped.

    Sgt. First Class Scott Smith was killed by a roadside bomb in 2006. Gari Lynn Smith still tears up when she thinks about what she misses most about him.

    "His smile," she told NBC New York Thursday. "He was just such a good person. And he didn't deserve this."

    She knew his entire body wasn't in the casket they buried, so she started asking questions.

    "When I started inquiring about what happened to the additional remains, I figured that maybe they buried them in Arlington Cemetery," Gari Lynn Smith said. "So I started questioning, and they had a gentleman on the phone tell me no one wanted my husband so they cremated him with the rest of the medical waste and threw him in the trash."

    The Air Force admitted this week that it dumped the partial remains of not just Sgt. Smith, but 273 other service members -- far greater than the number initially disclosed to the Washington Post a month ago.

    New Jersey Rep. Rush Holt was alerted to the problem by Gari Lynn Smith. Together, they've been trying to get answers, which they believe the Air Force never intended to give.

    "It is such an obvious, flagrant desecration," said Holt. "If they did know it, they didn't want to know it."

    For his part, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said he was comfortable with the way the Air Force has handled the matter.

    But when asked why the partial remains were considered waste, Air Force officials had no answer.

    Apologies will be given to the 274 families involved, but only if they call.

    For Gari Lynn Smith, an apology may not be enough.

    "They have one job," said Gari Lynn Smith. "They have one major job down there, and it's probably the most important job in this world. It's to honor and care for these heroes who are coming back, and it is an epic fail."