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Mis-Communicator of the Week: The US military

17th October 2013

I imagine we've all seen the ceremonies on television or spied pictures in newspapers. I'm always touched by the slow deliberate movement of the highly trained military personnel as they handle the coffins and flags in a process that welcomes those who have died serving their country back home.

In recent years we have seen a terrible number of these ceremonies in the UK and the US as battle was waged against the Taliban in Afghanistan. The United States also has a programme in place to find, identify and bring home those who have died in other wars going back as far as the Second World War. It is run by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command - POW meaning Prisoner of War and MIA Missing in Action - who have ensured that these often long-forgotten remains are repatriated with the dignity their service deserves. They find and identify about 80 men each year who fought and died in Korea, Vietnam, as well as World War II.

Unfortunately it has now been revealed that the ceremonies have been faked with the remains sometimes having been home on US soil for months. After that, the news that the soldiers are taken off planes which have been towed into place as they no longer fly, seems far less important but does still underline the level of duplicity which has been pursued by military authorities.

It is true that in the UK we seem to have been lagging behind the level of respect we give those who serve in the military compared to how they are treated in the United States. Although this has happily been reversed in recent years. But the news that the US feels the need to distort a process, which must be heart-breaking to every family who has had to witness the coffin of a loved one slowly carried off a giant transport plane, will undermine the trust the American people have in their military.

It has been reported that in this month alone 17 US servicemen have been killed in Afghanistan. Their remains will be making the journey home soon to be greeted by their families through a repatriation ceremony. How many of these families might now have doubts as to the legitimacy of the ceremony?

Those who wilfully mislead families over often long dead soldiers probably did so for the right reasons; they believed these men also deserved a proper repatriation ceremony. But to undermine something so precious to so many is unforgivable and is the reason why the US military is my Mis-Communicator of the Week.

Communicator of the Week is written by Edward Staite

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