Airman now has 'clear vision of the cost of war'

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Brandon Shapiro
  • 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
"Sadness and reverence, pride and honor -- I have never been so proud and distressed by my service all at the same time."

These were the gut-wrenching emotions that Senior Airman Laura Beckley, Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations broadcaster, experienced as she performed her first historical documentation of a fallen soldier dignified transfer.

Beckley deployed to Dover Air Force Base, Del., in July to assume the roles of a broadcaster for the AFMAO documentation team.

Being part of the AFMAO team is recognized as one of the most important, honoring and respected specialized assignments the military has to offer; it speaks directly to a time-honored tradition and the strength of our nation.

It is AFMAO's mission to "fulfill the nation's sacred commitment of ensuring dignity, honor and respect to the fallen and care, service and support to their families." From arrival to departure, the commitment remains steadfast; "...honor those who have given their lives in the service of the country."

Before arriving, Beckley thought she was prepared for the tasking, but little did she know what she was about to be apart of.

"All I knew about AFMAO's mission prior to coming was what I had read in a post deployment article," said Beckley. "After arriving, I quickly realized how much bigger the mission was than anything I had imagined."

There are many different roles and responsibilities that transpire during dignified transfers: From the dignified transfer OIC orchestrating the events, to the dignified transfer host who guides the general officer present for the movement, to the door guard responsible for securing the transfer vehicle doors, commented Beckley. Everything is done with dignity, honor and respect. It is a solemn process and the weight of it is felt by everyone. Every measure is taken to provide privacy to the families. Every choice, every movement, every task is calculated with care, service and support for the families at the forefront.

It wasn't long after arrival when Beckley truly began to question her overall readiness.

"I thought I was mentally prepared but I wasn't," said Beckley. "What I wasn't ready for was a father crying his son's name. I wasn't ready to hear a daughter weeping for her mother who said 'she'd come home.' I wasn't ready to hear a wife who lost her husband tell him 'she's sorry.' These families bare a level of heartbreak that I can't even fathom."

Through this emotion-filled time, what kept Beckley grounded was her tremendous resolve, resilience, respect for country and the family-like atmosphere that resonated from the AFMAO team. The established support channels, camaraderie and dedication to honoring the mission were deeply rooted and well fostered.

"I've had my fair share of bad days as well as my fair share of great days. But, no matter what kind of day it is, I know my team has my back," said Beckley. "They hurt with me, they heal with me, they celebrate with me. It's been impossible to go unnoticed -- it is extremely comforting and reassuring."

Going from hosting a morning radio talk-show and shooting television news, to documenting fallen hero transfers and working with mortuary affairs Airmen, Beckley will always remember what she has seen, heard and experienced.

"I now have a very clear vision of the costs of war, and I am forever moved by it," said Beckley. "I highly doubt there will ever be a time in my career where I will feel as much honor and pride in what I do as what I've felt here."

Note: Beckley is assigned to the 6th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs office, MacDill AFB, Fla., as a broadcast journalist