(NaturalNews) As bad as it is to lose a loved one who has died in the line of duty in service to their country, it is worse on a family to be denied all of the remains of the fallen.
But that is precisely what happened recently, when the family of a fallen Marine was stunned and upset to learn that their son had been sent home without his heart.
As reported by The Associated Press
, the Marine died while stationed in Greece. Weeks after his funeral, his parents found out that his body had been sent home without a heart. Worse, the Department of Defense later gave them someone else's heart
in its place:Craig and Beverly LaLoup, who are suing the department, said... that authorities told them 21-year-old Brian LaLoup had shot himself in the head during a party at the U.S. Embassy compound in Athens, where he worked a security detail.
The Marine was taken to an Athens hospital and died a few hours later. Six days after that, on Aug. 18, 2012, the state-run hospital performed an unauthorized autopsy, according to the family's lawsuit, filed... in Pennsylvania.'This is his soul'
As it stands, the couple has no idea what happened to Brian's heart. What they do know is that a heart arrived months later and the Pentagon, as well as Greek officials, claimed that it belonged to their son. But a months-long wait for DNA test results later proved that not to be the case.
"This is his heart. This is his soul. This is what made Brian who he is," Beverly LaLoup, told the AP in a phone interview.
Brian was buried with full military honors. He served in Afghanistan before being selected for prestigious embassy detail in 2011. He first worked in South Africa; a photo taken during that time shows him visiting once with first lady Michelle Obama.
According to the family's lawsuit, Brian was happy to be a Marine but was despondent over a recent romantic breakup. The family
is seeking a minimum of $75,000 in a federal claim.
The suit also alleges that a friend had told a Marine superior about Brian's condition, but the superior suggested more drinks instead of getting help. Also, the suit says, Brian was allowed to obtain a weapon from an unsecured storage area even though he was intoxicated. As noted by the AP:Government immunity prevents the family from filing a wrongful-death lawsuit. Their lawsuit instead seeks damages for emotional distress over the missing heart. But mostly, the family wants answers.
The Department of Defense says it doesn't comment on pending litigation.
The parents only found out about their son's missing heart purely by chance. The report says they were filling out some paperwork following the funeral when a military official with the file let it slip that Brian did not have his heart
"I was absolutely devastated," Beverly LaLoup said. "I was hysterical. I was running around the house, hyperventilating."
When she later calmed down somewhat, she began making a series of phone calls - to the embassy, to the Marine Corps and to the State Department, among others.Others added to the suit
A spokesman for the Greek Embassy in Washington, D.C., said Brian's heart was removed during the autopsy, the AP reported.
"His heart was kept for toxicological tests," spokesman Christos Failadis said. Failadis would not answer questions about what happened to the heart or why the LaLoup's received someone else's heart.
The family's lawyer, Aaron Freiwald, says it isn't common that hearts are tested for toxicology, so he is equally perplexed.
The LaLoup's sued the Pentagon
as well as the Navy, as the Marine Corps falls under the Navy. They hope to learn not only what happened to Brian's heart but also what led to them being sent the wrong one.
"They actually had somebody fly with (it), because this is part of a fallen soldier," Freiwald said. "The image of that is gruesome and disturbing and ultimately so incredibly sad."
Since initially filing their suit, the LaLoup's have amended it to include the Greek government and an Athens hospital, NBC Philadelphia