Entries in Military Deaths (4)


Military Suicides in 2012 Top Military Deaths in Afghanistan

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The number of suicides among active-duty service members, across all four military branches, reached a record high of 349 in 2012, compared with 301 in 2011.

The 2012 suicide total was higher than the number of U.S. servicemembers killed in Afghanistan last year.  The number for Operation Enduring Freedom – the war in Afghanistan — was 313 dead.

The Army reported the highest number of suicides — 182 — among active-duty troops last year, according to the Pentagon, compared with 167 in 2011. The Marine Corps reported the sharpest increase — 48, compared with 32 in 2011. The Air Force reported 59 suicides, compared with 50 in 2011, and the Navy reported 60, compared with 52 the previous year.  

Historical information from the Pentagon’s Suicide Event Report for 2011 showed that about 90 percent of the military suicides that year were among those serving at bases in the United States, not in Afghanistan or Iraq.

A study released last spring found the rate of Army suicides had “soared” since the start of the Iraq War in 2003.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Leon Panetta Tells Air Force to Review Dover Mortuary Practices

TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Defense Secretary Leon Panetta reaffirmed on Thursday that the recent flaps at the mortuary facility at Dover Air Force Base are a priority as he ordered the Air Force to conduct a new review that could lead to harsher disciplinary actions against those already reprimanded for improper disposal of body parts.

At a Pentagon briefing, Panetta said that the disposal of military remains and “ensuring the recovery and dignified return of our fallen heroes … is one of the department’s most sacred responsibilities.  And that’s why all Americans, including myself, are justifiably disturbed by the reports of mismanagement at Dover Port Mortuary that came to light this week.”

Panetta said that one of his first meetings after coming into office in July was with Air Force Secretary Michael Donley and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz on their investigation into Dover.

“They were forthcoming with me,” Panetta said.  “It was clear that they took these allegations seriously and that they were committed to strengthening the department’s handling of this most sacred and solemn task.”

Although the United States Office of Special Counsel produced a report that Panetta called “thorough,” he still requested an independent review by a “distinguished panel” because of additional questions raised.     

“This review commission will look at the processes and procedures there, and make sure that we are implementing the highest standards in dealing with the remains of our fallen heroes,” Panetta said.

With criticism that the Air Force’s own Inspector General investigation was light on punishments for those in charge at Dover, Panetta said he wanted to make sure appropriate disciplinary action was taken and determine whether or not there were “management reprisals” taken against the whistleblowers at Dover.

When asked if what happened at Dover is a black-and-white issue or if a higher moral standard should apply, Panetta responded that it was a command decision, but that “we have to pay the greatest respect and reverence to the remains of our fallen heroes.  That’s what I think ought to be considered in this situation.”

After the Pentagon briefing, Air Force Secretary Donley released a statement reaffirming that “there is no question the Air Force is accountable to our joint teammates and the families of the fallen for this critical and sacred mission.”

He said, “The lapses in our standards at Dover, which we sincerely regret, are our responsibility to fix.”

He promised that the new review would be “exceedingly thorough and rigorous” because the fallen and their families “deserve nothing less.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Air Force Disposed of War Dead Ashes in Landfill

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(DOVER, Del.) -- For several years, the mortuary at Dover Air Force Base cremated the unidentified body parts of fallen service members and disposed of the ashes in a southern Virginia landfill, Air Force officials confirmed to ABC News.

The mortuary carried out the practice from 2003 to 2008, but now has a policy of burying these kinds of remains at sea.  It processes all of America’s war dead returning to the U.S. from overseas war zones.

The disposal of unidentified cremated remains at the landfill was first reported by the Washington Post on its website Wednesday evening.

The cremations “only occurred in instances where the person authorized to direct disposition of remains opted for military disposition of any subsequent portions of remains,” according to Air Force spokesman  Lt. Col. John Dorrian.

Subsequent remains refers to body part fragments of an individual that may have remained unidentified or were recovered after a funeral had already taken place.

Air Force officials acknowledge that the military branch did not discuss the military disposition option in detail with the families of service members who gave their consent.

In those cases prior to June 2008 where families gave their consent for the military disposition of subsequent remains, Dorrian said “the Air Force would transfer the portions to a local funeral home where cremation was effected and the cremated remains were returned to Dover.”

From there, the cremated remains would be turned over to a contractor for “further incineration and disposition in accordance with medical disposition.”

“The common practice was that any residual matter remaining after incineration was disposed of by the contractor in a landfill,” Dorrian said.

An Air Force official identified the landfill as being located in King George County in southern Virginia.

In Dec. 2008, the mortuary began its current policy of burying the ashes at sea after the then-mortuary director recommended it “to effect disposition as a more respectful and dignified process.”  Since then, the ashes have been placed in urns made of sea salt that dissolve in water.

The new information about the disposition of these remains comes on the heels of Tuesday’s acknowledgement by the Air Force of two instances where mortuary officials misplaced a body part and another where a Marine’s arm was sawed off so he could be buried in his uniform.

After a year long investigation, the Air Force disciplined three mortuary supervisors for their involvement in these incidents.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Drywall, Environmental Issues Not Cause of Ft. Bragg Infant Deaths

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(FT. BRAGG, N.C.) - An investigation into drywall and other problems at homes in Fort Bragg has revealed no connection to the deaths of three infants of military families.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission said Thursday that the deaths of the infants were not caused by either environmental or drywall problems, the second such finding in as many investigations.

The CPSC contracted a company to test the two homes where the infants died for problems with the drywall, ventilation and cooling/heating systems. The company conducted nearly 400 tests in the homes and concluded that just two pesticides, permetherin and cypermetherin, were found in the homes at levels considered to be in the normal to high range. All others tested in the low to undetectable range. The CPSC is now working to determine the level of those pesticides at the time of death.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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