The US Air Force sent the incinerated remains or partial remains of at least 274 soldiers to a Virginia garbage dump over a period lasting several years, Pentagon records have revealed. Military officials purposefully hid the practice from families who had believed that their loved ones’ remains had been disposed of in a dignified manner.

The story came to public attention last month when the Washington Post documented that at least one soldier’s remains were transported from Dover Air Base in Delaware, the main entry point for troops killed in the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, to the King George County landfill in Virginia. On 8 December, the Post revealed that, based on official records, the remains of at least 274 soldiers were dumped at the site.

According to military records, the incinerated remains from an additional 1,762 unidentified corpses returned from Iraq and Afghanistan were also disposed of at the landfill between 2004 and 2008.

Trevor Dean, formerly the Dover Air Base mortuary director, told Gari-Lynn Smith (see video) that the practice goes back to at least to 1996, the first year he worked there. Smith learned this when she demanded information on the remains of her husband, Scott R. Smith, who was killed in Iraq in 2006. Upon her first inquiry she received a letter from Dean informing her that her late husband’s remains had been dumped at the King George County landfill, before concluding, “I hope this information brings some comfort to you during your time of loss.”

There are no plans, Air Force officials said, to alert those families now. Only if they ask.

Endlessly celebrated by politicians and the media as heroes, US soldiers are in reality nothing more than cannon fodder in neo-colonial wars waged against hostile populations. Once killed, in the estimation of the richest military in the world, these “heroes” are not even worthy of a dignified burial.