Sunday, April 5th, media were present for the return of a fallen Airman to the United States. Staff Sgt Phillip A. Myers died the previous day of injuries from an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. For the first time in 18 years, media were allowed to photograph/film the arrival of the remains of a fallen service member at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
The policy restricting photographs of the fallen began in 1991 with the first Gulf War. The original purpose was to provide privacy to the mourning families. The new administration has lifted the restrictions as long as the family agrees to allow media access.
Dover Air Force Base is home to the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations Center which prepares the remains of the fallen service member before he/she begins the journey home. Like any family, the military has its own traditions for honoring our dead – and especially those who are killed in battle. Many are familiar with the funeral honors – the folded flag, bugler playing taps, and rifle salute. Civilians often are not aware that those honors actually began at the place of his death and will continue until he is laid to rest.
To the personnel at Dover’s Mortuary Affairs, it is personal to all involved. Every detail is important to the team committed to honoring our dead heroes and supporting their families. A series of video presentations describe how committed these people are. You can see for yourself at Air Force Link.