Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) is questioning the Pentagon about arrival ceremonies for the remains of missing or fallen soldiers after an NBC report revealed that the events are largely fake.
According to the report, the coffins used in the ceremonies are empty, even though the public is fooled into thinking that soldier’s bodies are inside. The U.S. Department of Defense has been holding these “symbolic” ceremonies for the past seven years, and some military insiders refer to the practice as “the big lie.”
McCaskill, who serves on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, wants to know if any actual remains are used in the ceremonies, which are presented by the Joint Prisoners of War, Missing in Action Accounting Command.
In a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, McCaskill wrote:
I am writing to you regarding a recent news report about the Department of Defense’s staging of “arrival” ceremonies for the recovered remains of our missing service members … I request that the Department provide additional information and documents … [including] the dates of all arrival ceremonies, the recovery location of the remains presented at each ceremony, and the actual date the remains arrived at JPAC.
She also requested a cost breakdown of each ceremony, as well as records of department communications with media, soldiers’ loved ones and veterans’ organizations.
Along with misrepresenting the contents of the flag-draped coffins, the ceremonies often used inoperable planes, which were sometimes towed to the ceremony location.
The American Legion has also spoken out about the deceptive ceremonies. Following the NBC report, the organization issued a statement saying:
Symbolic honors are one thing, but deception is quite another. The so-called ‘Big Lie’ does not honor our war dead. Instead, it misleads and insults the living. It is especially egregious during a most sensitive and vulnerable time for families. Though I am certain these deceptions were not meant to be cruel, this revelation shines a bad light on JPAC, whose mission The American Legion strongly supports, and the Pentagon.