Poster Session

Presenter Information

Mariah WilsonFollow

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Faculty Mentor(s)

Tanya Bennett

Campus

Gainesville

Proposal Type

Poster

Subject Area

Criminal Justice

Start Date

17-4-2020 12:00 PM

End Date

17-4-2020 1:00 PM

Description/Abstract

Locating, Analyzing, and Renaming the Lost Soldiers

Mariah K. A. Wilson

Accepting the loss of a fallen soldier is an experience many families around the world have become accustomed to. They grieve the space that their son, daughter, wife, husband, mother, or father once filled. Recently developed forensic methods, such as forensic analysis, CBRN (chemical, Biological, radiological, and nuclear) forensics, and forensic investigation allow for special teams to locate and identify unnamed bodies, determine a soldier’s cause of death, and return them home, giving their family and friends a much-needed sense of closure. The tragedy of not knowing their loved one’s fate is now declining with the help of forensic science used in the military. However, while these forensic tools are known to be effective, they have not been widely adopted by the military, due to a number of factors. In order to improve the use of forensics for this purpose military personnel must be trained in the newest practices. This project explores secondary research on factors that inhibit forensic use for identify soldiers remains and proposes steps for overcoming those challenges.

Note to Conference Administrators

https://ungprod-my.sharepoint.com/:w:/g/personal/mkwils0971_ung_edu/EbAeZgtOSsVAmpY37k85I9sBswQ2zRATFAhpkR4588XGIQ?e=75v52k

This is the link to my full essay. If this does not work I have attached the essay below.

Mariah Wilson Tanya Bennett English 1102 14 November 2019 Locating, Analyzing, and Renaming the Lost Soldiers Accepting the loss of a fallen soldier is an experience many families around the world have become accustomed to. They grieve the space that their son, daughter, wife, husband, mother, or father once filled. For some, they will never know why or how death came upon their loved one. The tragedy of not knowing their loved one's fate is now declining with the help of forensic science used in the military. Forensics allows for special teams to locate and identify unnamed bodies, determine a soldier’s cause of death, return them home, evaluate surviving soldier’s health, and gives a sense of pride to the workers in the forensic field.

For 18 years, from 1984 to 1998, the Vietnam crypt of the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery housed the remains of a soldier whose anonymity helped shoulder a nation's grief and fuel its memory. They were those of First Lieutenant Michael J. Blassie, an Air Force pilot shot down over hostile territory in southern Vietnam in 1972. On 14 May 1998, Blassie's then unrecognized remains became the only set at the memorial to be disinterred and identified - an act that signaled an important shift in forensic practice and the state's means of commemorating its missing and unknown members of the military.

In “The making and unmaking of an unknown soldier” by Sarah Wagner, the importance of forensic analysis is expressed (2013). Forensic analysis is used in the naming of each dead soldier, the returning of each set of remains to the surviving families, and personalizing the ideals of sacrifice and honor that are embodied in a fallen soldier (p.631). Returning a soldier home, no matter how partial, allows the family of the lost to heal. The family’s soldier has come back and now the body can be laid to rest at home. Wagner’s article explains that the use of forensics is needed in all countries that experience the loss of military life. The Tomb of the Unknowns was a final resting place created to hold all the lost and unnamed soldiers of war. That was the original thought, but everything has changed with the introduction of forensic science in the military. Just like the story of First Lieutenant Michael J. Blassie, forensics was used to identify the cause of death for Donald Logan. Michael Logan wrote a manuscript on the investigation into the suspected suicide of his father, Major Donald Gordon Logan, who served in Vietnam. Major Logan was a decorated officer that had a wife and three kids back home, so suicide was a great shock to all that knew and loved him. The forensic investigation was opened up because military records stated that the Major had killed himself with his own gun and the cause of death did not match statements from family and friends about Logan’s mental health nor that of a mortician’s visual inspection of the body. In the manuscript, Logan says “ Knowing the truth, no matter how ugly, would certainly help to free my mind…”, (p.47) this quote shows how much of a strain is put on family members if they do not know what happened to their soldiers (2006). The use of forensic science in identifying unknown troops will help feel the void that military families hold in their hearts. If everyone thought about losing the one person, they love the most and how it would feel to not know why they lost them, then they could truly see why forensic science is a necessity.

In order to identify a body, a forensic team needs to collect evidence from the scene. This task poses a new set of challenges since a soldiers’ body is not found in a typical crime scene. In the military, forensic teams gather chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear data from the environment being investigated. Dan Kaszeta says that “The scientific and procedural aspects of CBRN forensics are important in the context of international security” (2018). When a forensic team arrives on scene they seek to find if CBRN materials were used and if they were, the team needs to know if it was accidental, deliberate, or caused by a natural phenomenon. CBRN forensics can help to determine if the action was made by state actors or non-state actors, such as terrorists (p.85). A problem that is stated in Kaszeta’s article is the ability of forensic teams to collect effient evidence. Evidence in war type environments can become tainted, cross-contaminated, spoiled or mishandled due to rapid changing of locations out in the field and this causes the conclusions to be altered. To move forward is to equip traditional forensic labs with CBRN capabilities and to train evidence collection technicians to operate in CBRN environments (p.88-89). CBRN forensics helps the military personnel, but it can also help the country that the military is fighting for.

Forensic Science is not only for evidence collection and body identification, it can also be used to assess the health of returning soldiers and military workers. The living are just as important as the dead, but at times they can be overlooked. An article found in The Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology (2012) performed a pilot study of combat-related irritability with whole blood serotonin levels. The study showed that troops who have been in at least one deployment can have behavioral anger, irritability, or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) all because of the levels of serotonin found in their blood. After giving a blood specimen and being administered an anger, irritability, assault, and post-trauma exposure questionnaire, the results were compared with data from pre-deployments. Using forensics to evaluate the mental health of returning soldiers can help the soldier transition back into a civilian environment. Mental health is also evaluated in military mortuary workers. Brian Flynn (2015) provides case studies on military mortuary workers and how each of them feels different levels of distress and pride working in the field. The case studies consult both experienced and inexperienced workers about their admitted degrees of stress, and how exposure, personal experiences, and possible PTSD symptoms might affect them (p.92). The need for forensic science for workers in and around the military is just as important as returning the lost home.

Having forensics in all militaries allows for special teams to locate and identify unnamed bodies, determine a soldier’s cause of death, return them home, evaluate surviving soldier’s health, and gives a sense of pride to the workers in the forensic field. Forensic science can and will be a source of healing for military families. The help that forensics can provide needs to be spread throughout all military aspects and all around the world. Forensics cannot bring the dead back to life. However, the science can aid the grief families feel for the lost and evaluate the health of both surviving soldiers and workers in the field.

Works Cited Flynn, B., McCorroll, J., & Biggs, Q. (2015). Stress and resilience in military mortuary workers: care of the dead from battlefield to home. Death Studies, 39(2), 92–98. Kaszeta, D. (2018). The forensics challenge. PRISM Security Studies Journal 7(3), 84-89. Lande, R.G. & Fileta, B. (2012). The forensic assessment of combat-related irritability with whole blood serotonin levels: a pilot study. Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, 23(5/6), 654-663. Logan, M. (2006). Investigation into the death of logan. Conjunctions (46), 39-63. Wagner, S. (2013). The making and unmaking of an unknown soldier. Social Studies of Science 43(5), 631-656.

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Apr 17th, 12:00 PM Apr 17th, 1:00 PM

20. Locating, Analyzing, and Renaming the Lost Soldiers

Locating, Analyzing, and Renaming the Lost Soldiers

Mariah K. A. Wilson

Accepting the loss of a fallen soldier is an experience many families around the world have become accustomed to. They grieve the space that their son, daughter, wife, husband, mother, or father once filled. Recently developed forensic methods, such as forensic analysis, CBRN (chemical, Biological, radiological, and nuclear) forensics, and forensic investigation allow for special teams to locate and identify unnamed bodies, determine a soldier’s cause of death, and return them home, giving their family and friends a much-needed sense of closure. The tragedy of not knowing their loved one’s fate is now declining with the help of forensic science used in the military. However, while these forensic tools are known to be effective, they have not been widely adopted by the military, due to a number of factors. In order to improve the use of forensics for this purpose military personnel must be trained in the newest practices. This project explores secondary research on factors that inhibit forensic use for identify soldiers remains and proposes steps for overcoming those challenges.