U. S. Military's Fallen Warriors

by Kristin Binder

A dark sedan with uniformed officers and a chaplain pulls up in front your home. With a knock on the door, they deliver the news that every military family dreads receiving—your loved one has passed away in combat while serving in the United States Military.

The U.S. Military has strict protocols in place about how the news of a death is to be delivered to families, and by whom. According to The United States Army Casualty Notification Guide, a Casualty Notification Officer is specially trained to notify Next of Kin in an "appropriate, dignified and understanding manner," within four hours of learning that the soldier has passed away.

The circumstances surrounding the loss of a loved one serving in the United States Military can make the grieving process more difficult. The physical, emotional, spiritual and social reactions that any family would have to the news of a loss can be complicated for military families by the graphic and violent nature in which their loved one has passed away. It may also be more difficult for a family to grasp the permanence of their loss if they have already grown accustomed to their loved one being away for long deployments. Additionally, it is not uncommon for letters or packages sent before the soldier's death, to arrive days, or even weeks, after word that they have passed away has been received, making the permanence of the loss that much more difficult to accept.

The military has programs in place to help assist the grieving, including continued housing either on base, or through a housing allowance for those living off base, for 365 days following the soldier's passing. Additionally, according to ArmyStudyGuide.com, the Casualty Assistance Officer who first delivers the news of the soldier's death, remains assigned to and in contact with the bereaved family long after the initial news has been delivered. Casualty Assistance Officers help guide these families through the process of receiving their loved one's remains, and aide them in understanding military funeral entitlements, as well as to help them apply for any military benefits for which they are eligible.

Most importantly, families of a soldier who has passed away in combat need to know that they are not alone. Several free grief counseling programs for families who have lost loved ones on active duty, including free counseling provided by The Department of Veteran's Affairs, The Tragedy Assistance to Survivor's Program, Military OneSource, and numerous non-profit organizations, are available.

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