U.S. makes changes to cremations for slain troops
Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that it was insensitive to cremate the bodies of troops at a site which also cremated animals.
The Pentagon ordered changes to procedures for the cremation of slain troops after concerns emerged about the military's use of a crematorium that burns both human and animal remains, officials said on Friday.
"There is no mission more important than the dignified return of our fallen heroes to our families," Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell said.
The crematorium in question was used by the mortuary at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, where the bodies of troops killed in Iraq, Afghanistan and other overseas locations are returned to the United States, officials said.
Officials said the remains of humans and pets were cremated at separate incinerators at the crematorium but Defense Secretary Robert Gates believed it was insensitive to cremate the bodies of troops at a site which also cremated animals.
From now on, the military would only use cremation facilities attached to funeral homes, Morrell said.
"The families of the fallen have the secretary's deepest apology," Morrell told reporters at the Pentagon.
"Those still serving have his commitment that this department will do everything it possibly can to adhere to the principle that the remains of all members of the armed forces must be treated with the dignity and respect that their sacrifice demands," he said.
The issue came to light after a soldier who works at the Pentagon attended the cremation of a comrade killed in combat and expressed concern about the crematorium, officials said.
They said the crematorium was in an industrial area and had a sign advertising the fact that it also cremated pets.
They said the Pentagon had no evidence that the remains of troops had been treated inappropriately at the crematorium but had nonetheless decided to make changes.
More than 4,070 U.S. troops have died in the Iraq war since U.S.-led forces invaded in March 2003 and nearly 500 have died in the Afghanistan war since U.S.-led forces toppled the Taliban in late 2001.
Reuters Last Mod: 10 Mayıs 2008, 16:12