The remains of Captain Michael “Scott” Speicher, a U.S. navy pilot shot down over west-central Iraq during the first Gulf War 18 years ago, have been positively identified, reports The New York Times. Scott Speicher was shot down during the opening hours of the war and was its first U.S. casualty. For all these years, Scott Speicher’s fate had been shrouded in mystery; some believed that Scott Speicher survived the crash of his F/18 Hornet while others believed he died in captivity. But now the mystery has been solved, and Scott Speicher’s family can finally get a sense of closure.
According to a statement issued by the Department of Defense, Scott Speicher’s remains include bones and skeletal fragments. A positive identification was made by comparing Scott Speicher’s dental records with a recovered jawbone.
Scott Speicher’s remains were recovered in a desert grave by U.S. marines stationed in the Iraqi province of Al-Anbar and shipped to the United States for identification. The marines were reportedly tipped off by local Iraqis, including one who claims to have been present when Scott Speicher was buried (his body was reportedly discovered at the crash site by Bedouins, who then proceeded to bury the remains).
The discovery and identification of Scott Speicher’s remains highlights the human cost of the Iraqi conflict in a very dramatic and effective way. Too often, the focus is on the financial and strategic costs of war. But the most tragic aspect of war is the fact that soldiers- young men and women in the prime of their lives with so much to live for – end up in caskets. They have made the ultimate sacrifice and leave behind fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and oftentimes children.
When the media focus on the financial and strategic elements of a war, it has the tragic consequence of dehumanizing the brave men and women on the front lines – the men and women who put their lives in harm’s way in order to defend our nation and protect our cherished freedoms. And that is so unfair to the soldiers and their families. We owe them so much more than that – we owe them an enormous debt of gratitude for their strength and courage.
Scott Speicher’s friends and family can now experience a sense of closure. Finally, after 18 long and harrowing years, the mystery has been cracked, and Scott Speicher has come home.
But this is not the case with far too many soldiers who are missing in action. Most MIA soldiers are never found; their loved ones never get to experience the kind of peace and relief that the friends and family of Scott Speicher are now feeling. The emotional toll is immense.
We can only hope that some day the fates of these brave men and women will be revealeld.
Pilot’s Remains Found in Iraq After 18 Years, Thom Shanker, The New York Times