Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Perspective: Casualty officers bear heavy burden, one door at a time

Above: As one of his final duties, the casualty officer presents the tri-folded flag, along with the thanks from a grateful nation.

Marine 1st Sgt. Michael Miller stands at attention in the rain on a runway at Oakland International Airport.

He is drenched - water drips from the black brim of his white dress cap and soaks through his shiny black shoes.

For nearly half an hour, Miller doesn't budge.

He can see people inside the airport, gawkers clustered in front of the windows at the gates, peering at the ritual unfolding outside. Curious children press their faces against the airplane's windows.

A casket starts a slow trip down a conveyor to a group of Marine pallbearers. It is April 2006, and Lance Cpl. Juana Navarro, a 24-year-old Modesto woman killed in Iraq, is coming home. Her family, standing nearby, is breaking down with grief.

But Miller has to hold everything together; there can be no mistakes.

Everything must be "picture perfect."

Read the rest at the Stockton Record