Saturday, May 17, 2008

United States Senate
Committee on Armed Services

The Honorable Robert Gates
Secretary of Defense
The Pentagon
Washington, D. C.

Dear Secretary Gates:

Today the Committee was notified by the Army of a reported cremation of the remains of a U. S. soldier at a pet crematorium in Kent County, Delaware. It is my understanding that this soldier is scheduled to be buried at Arlington on May 20, 2008. This report is very disturbing and our men and women in uniform who make the ultimate sacrifice must be treated with dignity.

I request a full and immediate investigation of the facts related to this important matter. The investigation must be conducted by individuals who are completely independent of the chain of command both within the United States Air Force, which reportedly contracted for the service at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, and the Office of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner.

I urge that the investigation include all circumstances related to this matter, including, but not limited to the following:

Whether or not there is any DoD policy governing the cremation of U. S. service member remains, and if so, whether or not this action is in conformance with that policy.

The total number of remains of U. S. service personnel which have been cremated by the Armed Forces since 2001 and the location and source of each cremation.

The exact location of cremation capabilities in the vicinity of Dover Air Force Base which conduct cremation of human remains.

The identification of all individuals who had knowledge of the of the use by the United States government of a facility which conducts cremation of pet remains for cremation of remains of U. S. service members, including all personnel who authorized the use of funds or executed a contract for this purpose.

Whether or not a pet crematorium is authorized in the State of Delaware, or in any state to conduct cremation of human remains.

The Department's plans to inform the family of each service member whose remains have been cremated by the Armed Forces at any location and the nature of the crematorium performing the service.

This matter requires immediate investigation. To the extent permissible by custom or religious belief, I recommend that you cease all cremations of remains of U. S. service members until you are personally satisfied that each one is being conducted in accordance with DoD policy and American cultural and religious values. It is essential that the remains of all members of the Armed Forces must always be treated with the dignity and respect that their sacrifice demands.

I appreciate your immediate attention to this matter, and request updates as appropriate on the results of your investigation.


John McCain
Ranking Member

cc: Senator Carl Levin