The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Memorial approved at K.G. landfill
BY CATHY DYSON
King George County supervisors agreed with a county resident who wants to uphold the American tradition of “honoring our fallen,” especially after remains of service members ended up in the trash.
On Tuesday, Richard Lorey asked the county for permission to put up a bronze plaque at the entrance to the King George County Landfill. Lorey said the memorial would pay honor and respect to service members whose partial remains were dumped at the landfill after being processed at Dover Air Force Base.
“We need the plaque to be at the landfill rather than any place else,” said Lorey. “I know it’s appalling to say we’re putting a marker at the landfill. But that’s where the remains are, and we honor the fallen.
The supervisors unanimously agreed to allow the plaque, even though two members didn’t favor its placement. Dale Sisson Jr. believed it would be more appropriate elsewhere, and Joe Grzeika said a landfill isn’t a respectful place.
But both voted for the landfill memorial, saying they wouldn’t stand in the way of it.
Cedell Brooks Jr. said it was fitting that the county place a marker at the landfill, because that’s where final remains are. “We want to bring some dignity to the place, out of respect,” said Brooks, who owns a funeral home.
Lorey also read a letter from New Jersey widow Gari–Lynn Smith, whose quest to find out what happened to portions of her husband’s remains led to the discovery of the disturbing treatment.
From at least 2003 through 2008, partial remains of approximately 274 service members killed in Iraq or Afghanistan were incinerated and disposed of with medical waste—then dumped in King George, according to a letter Smith got from the Air Force.
Smith said she didn’t believe it was a coincidence that the King George board was discussing a memorial plaque on the sixth anniversary of the death of her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Scott R. Smith.
“It is shameful what happened to these service members, and that shame must be recognized and not buried there amongst the trash,” Smith wrote. “To place a plaque anywhere else would be covering it up once again.”
King George Supervisor Ruby Brabo initiated the idea of a memorial in February, then turned the project over to Lorey. During his presentation to the board, he stressed that no political parties had been involved.
He said he belongs to King George’s Republican party and that he founded the county’s tea party, but stressed that the plaque effort was not undertaken by either group as a whole.
Lorey did approach both about donations, but he also spoke to anyone who would listen.
He never sent out a fund-raising letter, but said news of the project spread by word of mouth.
“The only thing I sent out were thank-you notes,” Lorey said in an interview with The Free Lance–Star.
He told the supervisors he heard from people as far away as Arizona and received a donation from a small American Legion post in New Hampshire. He guessed at least 50 people donated to the plaque, which cost $1,200. Lorey said the manufacturer gave him a substantial discount.
At Tuesday’s meeting, three other residents spoke about the plaque. James T. Johnson, commander of American Legion Post 329 in King George, urged the board to support the plaque’s placement at the landfill. So did Bruce Frady, who belongs to American Legion Post 89 with Lorey.
“Don’t put this at the courthouse,” Frady said. “Their ashes are in the landfill, that is where it belongs. Don’t do this to our servicemen.”
Vic Mason, whose son, Nick, was killed in a mess-hall attack in Iraq in 2004, suggested placing the memorial at the courthouse or one of the schools.
“One of the county buildings would be a more dignified and honorable place for the memorial,” Mason said.
Lorey said he would schedule a ceremony to erect the plaque as soon as he gets it from the manufacturer. Smith said she’d attend from New Jersey if her schedule allows.
Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425