|Respect In Life And In Death|
The United States Military is extremely experienced at delivering the death notification to the proper kin of a fallen soldier. During WWII and the Korean War, notification was done through a telegram. Hardly a respectful way. Years later, with the shear number of fatalities from Vietnam and the Gulf War, the military began training their personnel to deliver the death notification in person. To date, 3,503 death notifications have been delivered to families of servicemen and women who died in Iraq and 1,475 in Afghanistan. If anything, this has become a "learned" process, one where compassion is of the upmost importance.
The early hours of January 29th were somewhat uneventful for the Major and Chaplain. All that changed at 12:20 p.m. when the cellphone call came from the Deputy Personnel Officer telling of a death in the Iowa Military family. Immediately, the problems of the day changed. In several hours, they were going to convey one of the most difficult and important message of their lives. "I knew I was going to deliver some news that would ruin someone's day", the Major recounted.
Now, the important aspect for the two officers to remember was respect. It was the significance of that word, that provided strength and composure the remainder of the day. It began with the Class A uniform both took considerable time in preparing.....ensuring their dress was precise. Other preparations were taking place in their minds and some of those were of the prayerful variety. Prayer for the right demeanor, the strength in the words to deliver and compassion to help direct the family in picking up the pieces. By 3:15 p.m. they were on their way to Coon Rapids.....albeit with a potential slowdown in the making.
The Army's policy is for the primary next of kin to be notified first and then the secondary next of kin. In this particular case, the widow of Specialist Muhr, Winifred Olchawa, who was at Fort Rucker, Alabama, was first on that list. As the Major and the Chaplain drew closer to Coon Rapids it was apparent they would need to divert their course. Not only did they have to wait on the news that the Ft. Rucker message had been delivered.....they now needed to avoid anyone detecting them. Two Class A uniformed officers in a government vehicle in a small town would certainly be easy to spot. For a little over an hour the wait continued, hidden next to a grain elevator in town. Finally, the message delivered call was received. At 5:45 p.m. the non-descript military car began its final course to the Muhr residence.
Minutes later, when the Major began his words to David Muhr, he said them with a sense of strength and compassion. "Mr. Muhr, I have an official message from the Secretary of the Army".......
A recent NPR program (National Public Radio) discussed the notification process from all sorts of angles. It spoke on the "sorrowful anger" that many experience when they are informed of their soldiers passing....it touched on how that moment affects everyone (officers and family) very deeply in so many ways.....and it
spoke about the assistance to the family in the days leading up to the funeral and beyond. One of the officers interviewed mentioned, "there is no way to soak into the experience of seeing two soldiers in their Class A's coming to the front door.....and then to see that world collapse. Our faces will be locked together....the image of the news I just delivered".
P.S. My religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death.
I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me. That is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave--- Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson