Army apologizes for hurtful message to survivors
Posted January 7, 2009 3:39 p.m. EST
Updated January 7, 2009 5:08 p.m. EST
WASHINGTON — The Army said Wednesday that 7,000 family members of soldiers killed in the Iraq or Afghan wars mistakenly were sent letters addressing them as "John Doe." Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey, Jr., was sending a personal letter to all the families who received the improperly addressed letters as the result of a printing error, the Army said.
The 7,000 original letters were sent late last month to inform survivors about private organizations that offer gifts, programs and other assistance to families that have lost soldiers in Iraq or other countries where they are deployed for the war on terrorism.
It was sent from the U.S. Army Human Resources Command's Casualty and Mortuary Affairs Center in Alexandria, Va., which issued a formal apology Wednesday.
The letters, which were printed by a contractor, were to have been automatically addressed with the specific names and addresses of survivors, said Paul Boyce, an Army spokesman. Instead, they contained the placeholder greeting - "Dear John Doe."
Boyce said he wasn't sure how many Fort Bragg families had received the letter, but he estimated the number to be "in the several hundreds".
"It's our fault for not catching it," he said. "We are certainly sorry."
Casey's personal note to the families alluded to the fact that he lost his own father in Vietnam and it said the Army is extremely sensitive to family grief.
An apology also was being posted on the human resources Web site, Boyce said.
"There are no words to adequately apologize for this mistake or for the hurt it may have caused," Brig. Gen. Reuben D. Jones, the Army adjutant general, said in the statement to be posted.
Boyce said all the other information in the letter regarding the assistance organizations was correct.
"It is important the original intent of the letter is not lost," Jones' statement said. "The organizations mentioned are dedicated to honoring loved ones and recognizing their sacrifice and commitment."