Fragmented and unidentifiable remains of fallen service members will have a resting place, through a bill to create a place where these remains can be laid to rest and accorded due respect.
A proposal from Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) is aimed to create a Place of Remembrance at Arlington National Cemetery, where fragments and unidentifiable remains may be placed.
It will be reminiscent of the Tomb of the Unknowns, also located at the Arlington National Cemetery, where selected remains of unidentified fallen service members exhumed from combat locations during World War I and II and the Korean War are interred. The Unknown Soldier who served during the Vietnam War was eventually identified as Air Force 1st Lt. Michael Joseph Blassie; his remains were exhumed from their place in the Tomb of the Unknowns, and re-interred at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery.
The proposed Place of Remembrance was described as a “direct response to the discovery that fragments were cremated by the Dover Air Force Base mortuary and taken to a landfill in Maryland,” reported by the Washington Post in 2011. The military has since changed its policies for handling unidentifiable remains, and these are now cremated and the ashes spread at sea.
The Place of Remembrance will hold cremated fragments of remains of fallen service members who served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as remains from future wars or contingency operations. This will apply to cases where identification is impossible, or when families indicate that they do not want to be consulted regarding how fragments of remains are to be disposed, which may happen when additional fragments of remains are discovered after burial or cremation.