With Reverence & Respect, this message is posted. I am in Kandahar, Afghanistan and wanted you to see this message. Please forward to ensure that as many as possible will read the words of this valiant warrior.
Courtesy of Northwest Herald of Illinois, Kevin Lyons is news editor of the Northwest Herald. e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Kevin J. Cook - US Naval Reserve (retired) - working as a civilian contractor in Kandahar, Afghanistan
E-mail message from U.S. Army Maj. Anne Brophy, who is assigned to the 143rd JAG Unit in Kandahar, Afghanistan
Today, I was given a great honor. My friend, MAJ De Mosby, invited me to join her at Mortuary Affairs. Kandahar Airfield just received 4 fallen warriors. They were on foot patrol when an IED went off.The fallen heroes have to be out of the country within 24 hours of death.
De and I were invited to put on smocks and gloves to assist in preparing the bodies for travel. We entered after the physician and chaplains had finished. The room wasn't cold but the tables were still sterile. The bodies were on the slab that makes up the bottom of the casket, each casket lined up from head to foot.Teams of two worked on each hero. I began with the sign of the cross. We assisted in actually inventorying the bodies and the items brought in with them. Only 3 of the 4 bodies will be able to have open caskets. Only one of those three will be able to have a fully open casket. We could see all four of their bodies.
A few of us through our professions have seen bodies on the table, in various states, but it was so hard not to cry for these young men. All of the soldiers and marines taking care of the bodies did it with great reverence. They see fallen heroes nearly everyday - and continue to treat each hero with dignity and respect. After checking the bodies for any personal affects and inventorying what they had. We assisted in zippering up the black bags and tagging the outside.
While we were there, the companions of the Air Force fallen hero asked to come into the room. Each of the bodies was draped with Old Glory before the companions were allowed to enter. Even though all of us were chatting in small groups, all stopped talking when the companions came toward the body.SSG Arthur drew back the flag and unzipped the black body bag, allowing the companions to view their fallen hero. De and I stood close to each other as the companions grieved. Shortly thereafter, they were escorted out. The flags were removed and put on the side.
The four fallen heroes were then carted outside to a big refrigerated container (reefers). While I didn't know protocol of standing at parade, the soldiers and marines attending to the bodies continued to handle the bodies gently and stood at parade rest when the other bodies were brought out.The large doors were then closed. We looked out to see SSG Kelly, and heard that one of the injured men was from his unit, a unit that De and I heavily support. SSG Kelly was strong, his enlisted soldier, a specialist, was barely hanging on. De and I gave both of them hugs. We then returned to the room where the bodies had been removed. I was amazed and thankful to these soldiers and marine that do this all of the time, unfortunately.
Four new flags were then removed from boxes. De and I had the honor of ironing one of the flags.Supplies are hard to come by and the ironing board is a few pieces of plywood, the iron was purchased from the PX with the soldier's own funds.(No iron donations are needed) They take great pride in ironing the flag and making it look as perfect as possible. While they do amazing work for our Fallen Heroes, many don't see what they do and how they honor our fallen. They do see the flag on top of the casket which is marched past ranks of soldiers, airmen, and marines from the United States and many other countries.
As De and I ironed, we almost cried. We ironed the broad red stripes of our flag, I thought of what the colors actually meant - and how their meaning could not have been more evident than today.
Charles Thompson, Secretary of the Continental Congress, reporting to Congress on the Seal, stated: "The colors of the pales (the vertical stripes) are those used in the flag of the United States of America; White signifies purity and innocence, Red, hardiness & valor, and Blue, the color of the Chief (the broad band above the stripes) signifies vigilance, perseverance & justice."
As we ironed the red, I thought about the blood these men had shed for us. I could remember the smell from the body when I had the honor of preparing his body for his final trip home. I ironed the white stripes - thinking about how young these men were. One barely had hair on his upper lip. Yet each one of them were proud to serve their country, mixing their innocence with their valor, next to each other. The blue represented the justice we are serving here - helping the Afghanistan people be free from terrorists and in turn, keeping our own land free from terrorists.
We cannot forget that these terrorists came to OUR soil, OUR land, and killed OUR people. September 11 photos are off the TV now, almost a forgotten memory but so real here. The terrorists continue to try and kill us everyday. These young men died to keep all of us and our families alive. They exhibited valor, purity and justice. Although it is late with the ramp ceremony at 0145, I am tired, and have a cold, I am staying up to go to their ramp ceremony.
At times, the fallen heroes names are not read at the ramp ceremony because family members have not been notified. The bodies go to Dover, Del. where they continue to be treated with honor and dignity. Please rent Taking Chance when you can to see how we honor our fallen heroes when they leave here. The new year started out with a ramp ceremony for 4 fallen Canadian Soldiers and one reporter. Tonight, we will say good bye to these four fallen heroes. After I spent time with these heroes, I went back to work, just like I went back to work after all of the other ramp ceremonies, just like I will in the future ramp ceremonies, just like on Christmas and New Years day. The mission still needs to be done.
I'll continue to go to the ramp ceremonies, for well over 50 fallen heroes, because I feel a need to thank each service member.I am still unhappy that I missed COL Rudzinski's son's ceremony but continue to pray for him and his family - I just didn't know. There are days I wonder why these fallen heroes were chosen, and others aren't. Why did I come home after Kuwait/ Iraq after having lived half my life already and yet these young ones, just starting, are now with the good Lord. It is because of our Lord that each of us go on. I can certainly tell you my faith has gotten stronger here - even though I still get into animated discussions with the priests here and there. Same old me but a little different. In the end, please pray for our fallen heroes, their families and those that take care of our fallen heroes