NEWS | Sept. 10, 2020

AFMAO remembers sacrifice of 9/11 victims, war fallen during anniversary

By Capt. Justin Clark Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations

This week, the 19th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, gives us reason for remembrance and reflection on the terrible events of that day and the lives lost, as well as pause to consider its effects in the 19 years since. The attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Flight 93 directly caused the deaths of nearly 3,000 people, and in the ensuing conflicts, thousands more American lives were lost. We should never forget that day, nor those lost—and those who continue to serve in harm’s way—from the ongoing conflicts that resulted.

Here, it’s firsthand. The meaning behind this day feels all the more true here at Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations at Dover Air Force Base, Delaware, where the remains of the fallen are repatriated to American soil, and where their families come to witness the dignified transfer of their loved one’s from a transport aircraft. Even 19 years later, we continue to witness the effects of the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq.

We are reminded of it every day here on our Memorial Wall, which stands immediately inside our front doors, commemorating significant events in our history. In 2001, the Dover Port Mortuary­—the predecessor to AFMAO—directly handled the remains of those killed at the Pentagon on 9/11, respectfully preparing the fallen to be returned to their families.

In a direct way, this unit is a result of 9/11. The unfortunate necessity of war and its tragic costs prompted the construction of a modern mortuary facility and eventually the creation of Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations.

The number of war fallen who passed through Dover increased after the onset of the War on Terror. To meet the increased demand, a new facility was built in 2003 and replaced the 48-year-old Port Mortuary facility. Later, in 2009, AFMAO was established, combining the functions of Port Mortuary, Mortuary Affairs and Honor Guard in order to provide a single voice to the U.S. Air Force and joint community on mortuary matters. Additionally, in an effort to best serve grieving families of who visit Dover for a dignified transfer, a Fisher House, a Meditation Pavilion and a Center for Families of the Fallen were constructed on Dover.

As combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq decreased, the pace of the fallen did as well, but that does not diminish the importance of the sacrifice of each and every one.

As Col. Brian Eddy, AFMAO commander, said, the impact on our nation is still felt to this day and is a reminder of the values Americans hold dear. That is why we continue to execute our sacred mission of providing dignity, honor and respect to the fallen and care, service and support to their families.

Let us all take a moment to pause and remember those lost during that September day and those who continue to make the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of our way of life.