In movies, the image of a notification officer is a familiar one: Wearing full dress uniform, he solemnly knocks on a door to tell a family that a loved one has died.
“It’s like coming in and tearing up someone’s house, and then you walk out,” says Voice, 51.
As an assistance officer, he guides families through months of paperwork and processes, including arranging burials and delivering soldiers’ personal effects.
That’s his job today. When he stops at a gas station on the way, people at the pump look at Voice – in his jacket with military decorations – and at the bins. They don’t know the contents are about to make a grieving mother’s pain sharper still.
In her Mercer County living room, Maria Vazquez waits for Voice. Her 25-year-old son, First Lt. Omar Vazquez, was killed April 22 when a bomb struck his convoy.
I’ve known several people that served as Casualty Assistance Officers. They said it was the most emotionally trying, yet satisfying duty they had ever been called upon to perform.
I’m just glad I never had to do it. My role in the process was always limited to providing graveside services.
Times have changed. Back during the Vietnam War, my dad was the skipper of a training squadron stateside. When crewmen from the deployed squadrons were lost, he and often my mother would make the notification. In the small A-6 community, they almost always knew the spouse they were calling upon. I wonder, was it a comfort to be notified by a friend? Or did the newly widowed survivor wonder why my mom still had her man while she had just had her entire world torn asunder?
Via War News Updates