Participating in these types of ceremonies is all but normal. If you live in
the Washing DC area, you do a 2-3 hour drive as we did on my last ceremony.
Arriving at Dover you get an initial brief and then you wait..and wait more.
Sometimes as in the movie "Taking Chance" you don't even receive your
warrior until maybe the next day.
When the time comes and the plane arrives a myriad of servicemembers board
the plane. A team has a bag full of new plastic covered American flags to
drape the already American flag covered coffins if one happens to have been
soiled or stained. Once the flags are replaced, all branches work together
to lift the "Angels" off of the plane. The caskets, filled with ice may
still have the warrior in all of his battle gear. They are heavy and as our
ceremony, we lifted 8, four Marines and four Soldiers, yes you think about
each one as you lift them. Staged on the airplane, a hydraulic lift
prepares to lower them to the ground. I swear it almost always begins to
rain at this point. Only one pair of family memebers resided this day as the
warriors were lowered. A monotone "Present Arms" was said as all branches as
one slowly raised a salute. No one usually even knows this transpires, but
they did. I'm glad there were no media present at our service, it would only
ruin the occasion.
Everything depicted in the movie "Taking Chance" was very accurate. I
planned to point out things that were erroneous as I watched the movie..I
had trouble.then something got in my eye about half way through the movie.
If you haven't seen it, you should.
We are the hardest on one another in times of trial, we are the best of
friends all of the time.
Semper Fidelis and God Bless all the "Angels" and their families.
Sailor, Marine killed in Anbar arrive at Dover
By Jeff Schogol, Stars and Stripes
Mideast edition, Sunday, May 3, 2009
DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. – Two transfer cases, each covered with an
One contains a fallen Marine, the other a fallen sailor.
The servicemembers waiting on the flight line are respectfully silent.
After a chaplain gives a quiet prayer, the transfer cases are lowered from
the plane to a waiting detail of sailors and Marines.
That's how the remains of Marine Staff Sgt. Mark A. Wojciechowski and Navy
Petty Officer 2nd Class Tyler Trahan were greeted Friday night when they
arrived at Dover.
Both were killed Thursday in Iraq's Anbar province, once the deadliest place
for U.S. troops, now relatively quiet – at least until recently.
Trahan, 22, was an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician who deployed with
"an East Coast based SEAL team," according to the Defense Department.
Wojciechowski, 25, was with the 7th Engineer Support Battalion, 1st Marine
Logistics Group, I Marine Expeditionary Force.
A second Marine, Sgt. James R. McIlvaine, 26, of Olney, Md., was killed in
the same incident. He arrived on a later plane, an Air Force official said.
The circumstances surrounding their deaths were not known Friday.
Friday's events are known as "dignified transfers," the process of moving a
fallen servicemember from the plane to the "transfer vehicle," which will
carry him or her to the mortuary, according to Air Force Mortuary Affairs.
President George H.W. Bush ordered a ban on media coverage of the transfers
in 1991, but after President Barack Obama ordered a review into the matter,
Defense Secretary Robert Gates reversed the policy in March.
"We are committed to seeing that America's fallen heroes are received back
to their loved ones and their country with the honor, respect and
recognition that they and their families have earned," Gates said at a March
18 news conference.
As of Friday night, 16 of 22 families of the fallen have allowed media to
cover their loved ones' arrival since the policy change, said Air Force
Capt. Thomas Wenz, a spokesman for Air Force Mortuary Affairs.
Friday marked the first dignified transfer for a sailor since media was
reinstated, Wenz said.
Family members attended Friday night, but they were screened from the media,
which is not allowed to photograph or try to interview them without prior
That is one of the ground rules media have to agree to in order to cover the
transfers. Violators will be kicked off base and not allowed to return.
So far, there have been no incidents with the media, Wenz said.
"We didn't expect there would be," he said.
Sailors and Marines waited in a humid, breezy Friday night to receive their
The civilian pilots who brought them to Dover stood at attention.
Wojciechowski, and then Trahan, were carefully put in a truck that would
take them to the mortuary.
A low voice said, "Present arms."
The sailors, Marines and airmen deliberately saluted in unison. The truck
slowly pulled away.