The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) confiscated the ashes of a soldier carried by his best friend in a fake bullet necklace and failed to return the priceless item for nearly a week last month.
Former Army Specialist George Tirado has carried Sgt. First Class Richard Martin’s ashes around his neck since his tragic 2019 death by suicide after struggling with PTSD. Tirado said the fake, stainless steel bullet in which he carried Martin’s ashes “is the most priceless item I possess,” 6 News reported.
On April 23, while passing through airport security at LaGuardia airport in New Yoro, a TSA agent confiscated the item, despite having cleared that same security line before stepping outside for a smoke earlier that day.
“The TSA officer on the other side asked if the items he held in his hand were mine,” Tirado said. “He stated that the necklace was a replica item and could be confiscated.”
Tirado said he explained to the TSA agent that the fake bullet had his friend’s ashes in it, showed him a bracelet bearing Marin’s name, and had never had an issue before. After a supervisor was called, Tirado was told that he would have to put the necklace in a checked bag.
Tirado later filed a complaint with the TSA. News 6 also contacted the agency, but was told policy stated items would not be returned.
“The only thing that kept me composed, was the thought that my wife and daughter were waiting for me at the gate. I felt like this was so wrong,” Tirado said after being forced to leave the item or miss his flight. “I would have missed that flight (to keep it). Even though I didn’t have insurance on the flight I would have missed it had I been able to.”
Less than 24 hours after his interview with News 6 aired on April 29, TSA spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein contacted Tirado to inform him that the item had been found and would be returned.
“Sir, your replica bullet with ashes is enroute via UPS tracking along with a patch with the TSA lga,” an email from the TSA later stated. “Thank you for your service to our country.”
TSA’s policy says of prohibited items that “Under U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) regulations, prohibited items that are left at the screening checkpoints are considered voluntarily abandoned and will not be returned. TSA disposes of all prohibited liquids, aerosols, and gels at the checkpoint, and disposes of hazardous materials in accordance with Federal and local laws and regulations.”
“TSA does not sell voluntarily abandoned property. The overwhelming majority of non-hazardous property is donated to State Agencies for Surplus Property (SASP), a public body established by each State to receive and redistribute excess Government property. SASPs and other public bodies that receive TSA donated property may further donate or sell it in various ways, including public auction or through other means, such as eBay. For more information on contacting your local SASP representative, please visit www.gsa.gov/sasp,” the policy continued.
Martin had been Tirado’s mentor, best friend and even the best man in his wedding. Tirado said Martin was a role model in his life.
“He was the type of person that always focused on others and supported others, but never really displayed a personal struggle,” Tirado continued referencing his friend’s struggle with PTSD following 18 years in the service and six combat tours.