Soldiers' ashes dumped as medical waste

THE PENTAGON - A landfill is no one's idea of a fitting resting place for a soldier fallen in battle.

Yet as CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports, that's what happened to Gari-Lynn Smith's husband, Sgt. 1st Class Scott Smith, who in 2006 was blown apart by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

"No service member, no human being at all, should be put in a landfill, no matter if it's a fingernail, a foot or an entire body," Gari-Lynn said Thursday.

Without her knowing, part of her husband's body was incinerated and disposed of as medical waste in a Virginia landfill.

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Gari-Lynn found out two years after his funeral. She says, "I have absolutely no idea what we buried of him because they forbid me to see him in the casket."

Sgt. 1st Class Scott Smith was blown apart by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2006.
CBS
Smith's parents had signed a form authorizing the mortuary at Dover Air Force base in Delaware "to make appropriate disposition of any subsequent portions" of his body identified through DNA testing.

"They did not ever disclose to us that there was even a possibility that these remains would go into a landfill," Gari-Lynn says.

But she kept asking what had happened to the rest of her husband's body.

"I finally got a gentleman on the phone who told me, 'No one wanted your husband's remains so they threw them in the trash with the rest of the medical waste from the hospital.'"

She didn't believe him, but it was confirmed in writing: "Taken to a landfill . . . in King George County VA."

"It completely shattered me," Gari-Lynn says. "I have no faith whatsoever in Dover that our soldiers are being treated there with respect, at all."

Three years ago, the Air Force realized, in one general's words, "This is not right." Ever since, remains that never reach their loved ones have been buried at sea.

  • David Martin

    David Martin is CBS News' National Security Correspondent.

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