Juxtaposition of two stories in today's news provides a peek into changing attitudes over a seventy-year span. As a Vietnam veteran, it's interesting to look at this study in contrasts.
First, from CBS News:
Those who made it to Pearl Harbor were treated to a hero's reception. The 5,000 spectators whistled, shouted and applauded loudly as the 120 or so survivors stood to be recognized, and others asked for autographs and took photos with them. (...)
Also this week, ash-scattering and interment ceremonies are being held for five survivors whose cremated remains are returning to Pearl Harbor after their deaths.
On Tuesday, an urn containing the ashes of Lee Soucy was placed on his battleship, the USS Utah. The ashes of Vernon Olsen, who was on the Arizona, were to be placed on his ship later Wednesday.
Then, also from CBS News:
The Air Force dumped the incinerated partial remains of at least 274 American troops in a Virginia landfill, far more than the military had acknowledged, before halting the secretive practice three years ago, records show. (...)
The landfill dumping was concealed from families who had authorized the military to dispose of the remains in a dignified and respectful manner, Air Force officials said.
There are lots of items in the article that deserve comment, and I recommend reading it in its entirety to get the full picture. But here is another paragraph:
In May 2008, then-Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates ordered a detailed review of policies at Dover after an Army officer complained that the mortuary had cremated a fallen comrade at a nearby funeral home that also cremated pets in a separate chamber.
I hope this story gets lots of attention. There is still a feeling in much of the land that those chickenhawks of the Bush Administration were somehow more supportive of our troops than any "Kenyan socialist Democrat" ever could be.
Perhaps the most salient point in the article:
The problems also transpired at a time when the mortuary was shielded from public scrutiny. News coverage of the return of fallen troops to Dover was banned by President George H.W. Bush in 1991 before the first Persian Gulf War. The ban remained until April 2009, when the Obama administration lifted it.
And there is so much in that paragraph! This whole policy of secret burials was, in and of itself, as callous and evil as the disposal of the remains that such policies enabled. I wonder what Bush Senior, as a WW II Pacific theater Navy vet, would say if we just dumped the ashes of our Pearl Harbor veterans into a landfill?