Plaque for fallen unveiled at Va. landfill


A memorial plaque is dedicated at the King George County Landfill in King George, Va., on Sept. 23. The plaque honored fallen service members whose partial remains were marked as medical waste and dumped in the landfill. (Mike Morones/Air Force Times)

KING GEORGE, Va. — The widow of Army Sgt. 1st Class Scott Smith, whose partial remains were quietly dumped in a Virginia landfill along with hundreds of other service members, helped dedicate a memorial at the site in a ceremony Sunday.

“For honor, respect and in memory of those American service members known but to God, who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom,” the cast bronze plaque says. “We are ever grateful. The citizens of King George County and a grateful nation.”

Between 2004 and 2008, the Air Force treated partial remains as medical waste and disposed of them in the landfill.

Richard Lorey, an Army veteran who lives in King George, spearheaded the effort to erect a memorial here after the practice was made public.

“Nobody in King George had any idea this was going on. Waste management didn’t know it was going on,” Lorey said in an Air Force Times interview last month. “Everybody was shocked about this.”

Lorey, with the help of the American Legion, raised money for the plaque and sought permission to place it at the landfill.

“During this effort, we heard from people across America,” a tearful Lorey said at the start of Sunday’s ceremony. “The word is out. This is not just a local event. … What happened here was a tragedy. To do nothing would further the tragedy.”

Gari-Lynn Smith, the Army widow, for years sought to find out what became of her husband’s partial remains. He died July 17, 2006, in a bomb blast in Iraq,  “the worst day of my life,” Smith said at the dedication.

Believing the Air Force would treat his remains with dignity and respect was “one of my only comforts through his death,” said Smith, who visited the place where portions of his remains were thought to be dumped a day earlier.

At the close of the ceremony, Lorey and Smith unveiled the plaque, which stands between an American flag and a Virginia flag at the entrance of the landfill.

“Scott, I love you. I miss you every day,” Smith said. “I know you deserve more than this. I hope I make you proud.”


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