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Abizaid Agrees to Chair Dover Mortuary Panel

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 22, 2011 – Retired Army Gen. John P. Abizaid will chair the panel overseeing the Dover, Del., port mortuary, Pentagon officials announced last night.

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta asked Abizaid, the former commander of U.S. Central Command, to replace former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Richard Carmona, who recused himself from the position when he decided to run for the Senate.

The review “will evaluate the efficacy of changes already made to mortuary procedures at Dover and make recommendations about any additional changes which may be required,” said Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. John Kirby.

Abizaid spent 34 years in the Army and brings to the position a wealth of military experience and leadership, Kirby said.

“The secretary is grateful for the general's willingness to lend his time and his talents to this critical work, and he knows that General Abizaid shares his commitment to ensuring we continue to do all we can to meet the highest standards of caring for the remains of our fallen heroes,” he added.

Abizaid will follow the same timeline laid out Nov. 8 for the original panel. Panetta has asked for a report within 60 days.

The other members of the panel are:

-- Retired Army Gen. Fred Franks, a member of the Defense Department’s health board;

-- Ruth Stonecifer, representative of families supported by the Dover Port Mortuary;

-- Dr. Vic Snyder, a former U.S. representative from Arkansas;

-- Garold Huey, a funeral director and embalmer who served in the Navy as an enlisted embalming technician;

-- Jacquelyn Taylor, executive director of the New England Institute and an internationally recognized leader in funeral service education; and

-- Dr. Bruce Parks, a forensic pathologist.

Three civilian employees at the mortuary filed complaints last year about how some remains were handled at the facility. The service implemented multiple corrective actions as a result of the investigation, Air Force officials said.

The Air Force Inspector General and the Office of Special Counsel have completed their investigations into the charges. A former commander and two other mortuary officials were disciplined, Defense Department officials said.


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