Tester calls for ‘full accountability’ following report of mishandled remains
Senator questions Air Force Secretary on ‘horror stories’ at Dover Air Force Base
(U.S. SENATE) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester today is asking the head of the U.S. Air Force for “full accountability” following a report of “gross mismanagement” at the mortuary that handles the remains of America’s fallen troops.
According to the Washington Post, federal investigators made the findings after whistleblowers came forward with “horror stories of lost body parts, shoddy inventory controls and lax supervision” at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
Tester, a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, immediately responded by asking the Secretary of the Air Force for a “full explanation of what went wrong and who is accountable for the at least 14 instances of wrongdoing.”
“All civilians and service members who care for the remains of fallen American troops are charged with a sacred responsibility,” Tester wrote in a letter to Michael Donley. “Mourning families and loved ones, and indeed our entire nation, trust that this responsibility is carried out with the utmost respect and dignity. Sadly, it appears that sacred responsibility was abandoned, and that trust was broken on multiple occasions.”
The Air Force reportedly disciplined three senior officials for allowing the mishandling, but Tester wants to know why the three weren’t fired.
Tester also called upon Donley for a commitment to “do everything in your power to prevent this kind of mismanagement from happening ever again.”
Last year, Tester criticized officials at Arlington National Cemetery for the improper burials of as many as 6,600 American heroes, calling it a “a black eye that needs to be made right.”
Tester’s letter to Air Force Secretary Michael Donley appears below.
Dear Secretary Donley:
I write to express my deep concern over today’s report in the Washington Post that investigators have uncovered “gross mismanagement” at the Dover Air Force Base mortuary. I am particularly saddened and disturbed by “horror stories” of the mishandled remains of American heroes who died in service to this nation.
As you know, all civilians and service members who care for the remains of fallen American troops are charged with a sacred responsibility. Mourning families and loved ones, and indeed our entire Nation, trust that this responsibility is carried out with the utmost respect and dignity. Sadly, it appears that sacred responsibility was abandoned, and that trust was broken on multiple occasions.
As a member of the United States Senate and an elected representative of the people of Montana, I have no greater responsibility than to ensure our nation honors its commitments to the men and women who serve in the Armed Forces.
We have a proud tradition of honoring fallen war heroes by draping their caskets with American flags as they return home and giving them a dignified welcome home. The work involved in handling the remains of these Americans must be treated with solemnity and respect at all times.
I am encouraged to hear that you have taken swift disciplinary action. But America’s service members, their loved ones, and all Americans deserve full accountability.
I request that you provide a full explanation of what went wrong and who is accountable for the at least 14 instances of wrongdoing. It is my understanding that the supervisors who allowed these events to occur were not fired. If that is accurate, why were they not fired? I also request a commitment from you to do everything in your power to prevent this kind of mismanagement from happening ever again.
Finally, I want to express my deep admiration for the whistleblowers who brought this story to light. Thanks to them and their respect for upholding the dignity with which we honor our fallen troops, we are able to address this sad chapter of war and make sure it never happens again.