My Deployment to the Military’s Port Mortuary

 

Photo by Hugues de BUYER-MIMEURE on Unsplash

There were more than 100 vehicles in our convoy, which was really one large funeral procession for a fallen American fighter pilot. We were headed from Dover Air Force Base, Delaware to Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia — more than 100 miles and two hours away — and we would make it in nearly half that time.

MIRACLE 100 MILES

Although there were dozens of police cruisers and motorcycles ahead of our military convoy, the hearse transporting the remains of Maj. Troy Gilbert was the focus of our procession. Two helicopters even followed from above. Seemingly, everyone was there to honor Gilbert one last time and to finally bury his remains after taking a decade to retrieve all of him. The major had been on an extremely long journey to a final resting place long before we’d set out on our multi-state, 100-mile drive late in the fall of 2016.

I was in one of the military transport vehicles driving behind the hearse, and my mind still marveled at the sight of all the students standing outside of schools that were along the route to the highway from Dover — with each small American flag in small hands, Gilbert was being honored one last time and I couldn’t stop wondering how they all knew.

Upon learning that I would serve my six-month deployment at the military’s sole mortuary command in the United States, I couldn’t help but feel like I was not only deploying far behind friendly lines, but that I would be doing peculiar work in an environment in which every day I would be surrounded by American losses. I secretly felt like I was being assigned to the losing team. I now am deeply ashamed of that notion.

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