With Dignity and Care: Inside the Process of Bringing Our Overseas Fallen Home

When a U.S. service member dies while on duty overseas, a massive endeavor begins to get that person home with dignity and respect. Regardless of the fallen service member’s branch, that effort is coordinated by Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations based at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware. Three people salute on an airfield as the sun sets behind them. The dignified transfer of remains, as it’s called, is a serious mission that involves a lot of people, from licensed mortuary specialists and deployed service members to military chaplains and liaisons who support the families of the fallen. While many people have seen crews carrying flag-draped transfer cases off an aircraft to an awaiting vehicle, that’s only a very small part of the work that goes into bringing home a fallen service member. With Respect and Care The effort naturally begins overseas, where the service member died. Once his or her remains are recovered, mortuary technicians work to get them to an evacuation point to fly them to Dover. Members of AFMAO’s Command, Control and Communications Center, known as C3, track those flights and start the process of contacting others within the chain of command. “We call the [service] branch liaison, and we call over to the armed forces medical examiners to make sure everybody is tracking and that the remains are being directed to the port mortuary,” said Lucas Rigdon, a C3 mortuary control center specialist. A team of men carries a transfer case holding the remains of a man. Two men in the background near an aircraft salute. When the aircraft lands, the remains are taken off the aircraft by trained military carry teams — the service members you’ve likely seen carrying the flag-draped transfer case . And while that part might appear simple enough, it’s actually very […]

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By Donato