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THE CONFLICT IN IRAQ

Troops' Families Can Attend Coffin Transfers at Dover Base

June 24, 2004|From the Washington Post

WASHINGTON — The Defense Department will allow families of U.S. troops and others killed in Iraq to watch their loved ones' coffins be removed from military transport planes at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, according to a memo issued last month.

The Pentagon said it would allow soldiers' next of kin or a "designated representative" to attend as remains are transferred from planes to vehicles that carry them to the mortuary.

The Defense Department supplies an honor guard to attend what it calls a "dignified transfer" of the bodies. But until the Pentagon's memo was issued May 26, it was not clear to some families whether they were allowed to watch.

Charles Abell, a deputy undersecretary of Defense, said that although the Pentagon does not encourage families to visit Dover, it has never barred them.

A spokeswoman for the Dover base, however, said that before the memo, families were prohibited from watching the transfers.

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