When a soldier dies in combat, he or she must be transported back home to the grieving family. Have you ever wondered who cares for the bodies of these brave men and women in our nation’s service?
Since 2009, journalists have been permitted a glimpse inside the Dover Port Mortuary on Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. The reports they’ve given paint a picture of tender care and solemn honor, as service members undertake the task of preparing their compatriots for their final journey home.
For veterans killed in the line of duty, that journey begins on a cargo flight to Dover. Upon landing, the plane is met by military officials and, often, family members. White-gloved service members solemnly carry the flag-draped casket to the 72,000-square-foot building housing the mortuary, where fallen troops are carefully attended by members of the armed forces dedicated to providing respectful care.
After an autopsy is performed by the armed forces medical examiner, mortuary staff members begin their work.
Embalming comes first. Then the body is washed, with special attention to cleaning the hands and hair. Repairs to the body are made, and embalmers use photographs of the person to try to recreate each distinguishing line and feature. When the body is ready, it’s time for staff to dress the service member one final time.
This is the part of the process that is most indicative of the veteran’s time in service. A dress uniform is prepared for each fallen service member, even if that person is going to be cremated or the service will have a closed casket. Even if the uniform can only be placed on top of the person’s remains, it must be perfectly prepared.
The men and women who dress service members at this time do it for the families, but also out of a deep and solemn respect for the men and women who have sacrificed their lives for our nation.
They carefully choose medals, badges, ribbons and other insignia specific to the person’s military service record, taking care to assemble them properly on the uniform.
Once the uniform is complete, a photo is taken and sent to Fort Knox, so that personnel there can double check to make sure that it’s perfect. No misplaced medal or loose thread is allowed to mar the look of the uniform that will be the last outfit the family sees on their loved one. Once it’s perfect, it’s deemed suitable for someone who, through the ultimate personal sacrifice, has earned the respect, honor and appreciation of our entire nation.
At Evergreen Mortuary, Cemetery, & Crematory, we also provide tender, respectful care to every person whose care is placed in our hands. For veterans, we strive to provide honorable and dignified arrangements and offer special services to truly honor the men and women who have given so much to protect the freedoms that all Americans hold dear.
Call us at 520.257.4831 for more information, or visit the Veterans Services page of our website.