Reflection on AFMAO’s core values

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Andrew J. Alvarado
  • Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations

Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations allows the mainstays of the organization to permeate every aspect of its mission: providing dignity, honor and respect to our fallen, as well as care, service and support to their families. We strive to be the standard against which other mortuaries can be measured.

Dignity is the inherence of honor and respect. It clothes our team as we prepare our nation’s fallen. There is a tremendous grace felt as we carefully handle remains. This grace drives our mission forward as we memorialize our brothers and sisters. From the first notification to the next of kin and the pressing of a new uniform, to the last salute as they are laid to rest, our service members are assured of a meticulous, diligent execution of our responsibilities.

Honor is the integrity we preserve with every act of consistency. It holds us upright in our duties. Every fallen member is prepared and sent off to their final resting place with as much honor as the one before them. The heritage of every military branch is honored during life but also includes care after death and is found in the repetition of excellence, both in action and in word. It is timeless as it endures through every generation of military service.

Respect is a deep admiration for service and patriotism. It is also the accommodation, observance and facilitation of the deceased and their loved one's wishes. Respect is a guaranteed constant amidst uncertainty and a promise others can rely on during their time in service. AFMAO takes pride in readily adjusting and developing plans tailored to respect a fallen member’s beliefs and traditions.

Care is a provision – it is paying special attention to our families' needs.  If mourning is an outward expression of grief, then AFMAO is a sanctuary where those emotions can be expressed in safety and without judgment. Families find a temporary refuge while they await their loved one’s return from overseas, with an opportunity for a pause in the middle of tragedy. It is a midnight call, a shoulder to cry on, a helpful embrace or an offered companionship to bereaved families.

Service is the choice to be a blessing for the survivors of our fallen. Service isn’t merely an action, but an intentional answer to every fallen member who returns home to U.S. soil. Our capacity is found in the heart of each worker and grows to meet the demands of loss. It calls on every member of our team to reflect on our humanity and confront any area where we may be lacking. We owe our very best to the families of those who gave their all and make a daily decision to evolve as leaders in the pursuit of serving their needs.

Support bears the weight of loss during what can be described as possibly one of the worst days of a survivor’s life. It is a comforting presence, shouldering the burden of preparing for what cannot be expected, and gently guides our families as they make decisions regarding the disposition of their loved ones. The mortuary offers solidarity through careful planning for the fallen member’s journey to their final resting place.

These six words, the hallmarks of AFMAO, are physically displayed within the walls of our building, but live and thrive within the hearts, souls and minds of our team. As I get ready to experience my third Memorial Day serving this sacred mission and our families of the fallen, I’ve learned to accept change as a husband, father and colleague. I’ve found it’s necessary in adjusting to meet the needs of the people around me, but also to help me grow as a person. My appreciation for my freedom, as well as my emotional and spiritual response to loss has helped me discover a peace I feel obliged to pay forward on a daily basis.

The preamble to the U.S. Constitution, which our service members uphold, reminds us of the need for an ever-present defense but also promotes the wellness of its citizens and the preservation of liberty. AFMAO believes these values are deliverable, with love, to both our military and our families during life and death. The fragility of life helps us respect the permanence of death, yet binds us together as we strive as a nation to understand both. And the country that is unified, even in death, is truly indivisible.

Dignity, honor, respect. 

Care, service, support.