Commentary by Chap. (Capt.) Richard Dunbar
Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations chaplain
6/24/2011 - DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. -- The Reverse Dignified Transfer is a memorable and intense process as the military member's remains have been prepared to make the final journey home.
A military escort comes to journey with our fallen hero and to ensure that the remains make it home safely and the proper respect and honors are rendered along the way.
Sometimes the military escort is an immediate family member of the fallen hero and it is at these times that a chaplain is present to offer additional spiritual support for the escort. These situations can become quite emotional for family members as they are tasked with the tremendous burden and honor of bringing their loved one and fallen hero back home.
Chaplains offer spiritual support as the escorts are briefed on their complete mission to bring both the remains, the uniform and all awards back home to the family for the funeral. The condition of the remains is always a touchy subject and this issue is perhaps the toughest one to talk about during the briefing. The mortuary staff works hard to make each fallen hero presentable for viewing at funerals, but unfortunately they are not always successful. The cost of war is extraordinarily cruel and intensely painful and from this chaplain's perspective, no more visible than at this moment in the briefing.
The briefing always closes with a short video of what the Reverse DT will look like out on the flightline. The chaplain is present with the escort throughout the entire process to include the flightline experience. It is a humbling experience to stand beside the escort as the final salutes and honors are rendered and the fallen hero is loaded for their final journey home.
As one chaplain eloquently reflected, "I like to think of it as the body going up into heaven where it will land safely in the loving arms of God." My heart grieves for the escorts that have been tasked for these tremendously significant missions. I've had the privilege to journey with brothers bringing home brothers and fathers bringing home sons and the grief they bear is unthinkable. To the families whose loved ones have paid the ultimate sacrifice I simply say thank you. Thank you for your courage. Thank you for allowing me the privilege to walk beside you through this darkest of times. My prayer for you is peace, hope and understanding as you try to make meaning in the midst of this great tragedy.
Blessings, Chaplain Dunbar
8/9/2011 7:45:04 PM ET Chaplain DunbarThank you and may you be blessed for the work you do.You do not go unnoticed.