The Pentagon has been holding phony “arrival” ceremonies for fallen soldiers at a base in Hawaii for over seven years, according to recent statements made by the United States Department of Defense to NBC News.
For nearly a decade, military personnel transported flag-draped coffins containing the bodies of troops killed in action from seemingly just-arrived cargo planes during ceremonies near hangar 35 at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
In reality, however, the remains of those soldiers may have spent upwards of months in military custody before being paraded out during partially-fabricated ceremonial presentations carried out by the government’s Joint Prisoner of War Accounting Command, or JPAC.
Bill Dedman, an investigative reporter for NBC, said that the Pentagon confirmed this week “that no honored dead were in fact arriving, and that the planes used in the ceremonies often couldn't even fly but were towed into position.”
The Pentagon has since released a statement of its own clarifying the falsity of such events.
“These pre-planned ceremonies are symbolic in nature, with the purpose of honoring those Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice in support of our nation,” the Pentagon admitted.
“Part of the ceremony involves symbolically transferring the recovered remains from an aircraft to a vehicle for follow-on transportation to the lab. Many times, static aircraft are used for the ceremonies, as operational requirements dictate flight schedules and aircraft availability. This transfer symbolizes the arrival of our fallen service members. It is important to note that recovered remains ceremoniously transferred from the aircraft to the CIL vehicle have been in the lab undergoing forensic analysis to determine identity,” the statement continued.
World War II veteran Jesse Baker told Dedman that he attended at least 50 of the ceremonies, and always thought the bodies of his fellow servicemen were being saluted as soon as they returned on US soil from abroad.
"If I have been fooled, I am going to be a very pissed-off citizen, because I've been going for years," Baker said. "And I know a lot of guys who are going to be pissed off. ... They're out there honoring warriors."
Rick Stone, a former deputy chief with JPAC who spoke with Dedman for the NBC report, said the reality regarding the troops’ final arrival was much less sensational that the ceremonies suggest.
“When remains are brought back by JPAC staff, Stone said, they arrive from the airport in a plastic box in an employee's private vehicle, with no ceremony,” Dedman reported after meeting with him.
"It's an open fraud inside JPAC," Stone said of the ceremonies. "But it's more than just the arrival ceremony. The fraud is really their inability to bring closure to more families. Our noble mission is to go find some of these kids, and this thing is so fouled up we don't even recognize the mission."