It’s been a challenging six years for Gari-Lynn Smith. In 2006, she lost her husband during an IED explosion in Iraq.
Then, two years later, she learned that some of the remains of her husband were cremated and then sent to the King George County Landfill in Virginia, along with the remains of about 270 other soldiers.
"I never in a million years dreamt that I would be in a landfill saying goodbye to the last piece of my husband," Smith said. But that is exactly what she did Sunday, at a ceremony for the unveiling of a plaque outside the King George County landfill.
"I can't help but think this never should have happened in the first place," Smith told the crowd of about a hundred gathered.
"Seeing the widow outside the landfill sign is just heartbreaking," Rosie Gagnon, a wife of an active duty navy man, said.
The plaque reads: For honor, respect, and in memory of those American service members known but to God. Who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. We are ever grateful.
Smith said that the plaque was possible because of donations and community support.She added that her work is not finished.
"There's a lot more I'm crusading against to fix," Smith said.
Her work has been instrumental in changing military procedures to ensure that any remains found of a solider after the funeral occurs is to be cremated and buried at sea, she said.
Also, a new mortuary commission will be established to ensure soldiers who pay the ultimate sacrifice to the country are never again treated the same way.
The landfill manager said his plant had no idea that the military was sending him ashes of human remains.
"As proud as I am of my landfill - it's no way to be buried," Thomas Cue said.
This story has been reported by national news outlets including CBS News. A link to their Evening News story is here