McCaskill Demands Explanation Over Staged Arrival Ceremonies for Fallen Soldiers

Photo Credit: AP2011Sen. Claire McCaskill is pressing the Pentagon for answers following reports — and an admission by the U.S. Department of Defense — that it staged “arrival ceremonies” for fallen soldiers.

“This is even more evidence that these recovery efforts are suffering from systematic problems and a lack of coordinated leadership,” McCaskill said in a statement. “Families in this community just want officials to be honest and forthright about the government’s efforts – instead, what they’re often getting is false hope and fake ceremonies.”

Joint Prisoners of War, Missing in Action Accounting Command — a unit in the Defense Department — has been holding arrival ceremonies for seven years, with flag-draped coffins being carried off cargo planes as though they held the remains of American troops that had just been returned, according to an initial investigation by NBC News. However, the remains typically were on site before each ceremony began, at a lab where they were undergoing analysis. The report focused on ceremonies at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii.

“These ceremonies, which have been held numerous times over the past seven years, reportedly represented to veterans and families that the remains had been recently recovered and were arriving in the United States for the first time,” McCaskill wrote in her Oct. 25 letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

Following the report, the Pentagon acknowledged that the ceremonies were more of a “pre-planned” memorial than a series of actual events unfolding. The Pentagon also confirmed allegations that planes used in the ceremonies at the military base in Hawaii couldn’t even fly and were towed into position.

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