Friday, October 25, 2013

Bill's latest training...

Bill just spent the last two days getting trained to become a casualty assistance officer.  He could have gotten this training at any time in his career, but he's just getting it now, at the tail end of his Army years.  Now that he's been trained, he can be called out to inform or assist family members when they lose a loved one at war.

If and when he gets chosen to carry out this duty, he will have to take his dress uniform to work and be prepared for the whole week to go out and work with families whose loved ones in the military get killed for whatever reason.  He could have to do it if someone dies on post doing something routine or it could happen when someone local dies in Afghanistan or elsewhere overseas.

Bill posted about the training on Facebook and some of his buddies piped up about it.  One guy said he would hope he could do it for a friend.  He wouldn't want his wife and kids finding out about him getting killed from strangers.  My response to that is that it would probably be a lot more difficult to carry out that duty to friends.  You would have to be very composed when delivering news like that and prepared for the fall out, which could include lashing out from the people on the receiving end of the news.  I would think it would be much harder to deal with those issues with friends.

The guy whose place Bill took when he went to Iraq lost his boss when his boss's helicopter was shot down.  Since this man had personally arranged for the flight that killed his boss, he felt somewhat responsible to his boss's wife.  When he came back to the States, he paid her a visit.  It did not go well.  The late colonel had two young sons who were left fatherless just a couple of weeks before their father was due to come home from the war.

I remember when Bill told me about that crash and how he and the colonel who ultimately abused him for six months in Iraq and caused us to leave Germany early would be taking the fallen colonel's place. He dreaded telling me, since he figured it would make me worry more about him.  I remember saying that I knew it was unlikely that he and his boss would be killed in Iraq and I didn't think the risks were higher just because of what happened to his boss's predecessor, tragic as it was.

Bill tells me that this area does a lot for the families of fallen troops.  He said that if he died tomorrow, I would be very well taken care of by the local military community.  That's good to know.  They do help everyone in the military community, including retirees and their families.  I hope Bill never has to deliver that news to anyone, although I do know he would carry out that duty with compassion.  He was on the edge of tears as he told me about the training and said they had changed the process a lot in the last ten years.  They brought in a "Gold Star Mother" whose son was killed.  Bill said listening to her speak was very moving and informative.

It's hard to believe that a year from now, he will probably be a retiree.

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