I just finished watching Taking Chance, an excellent movie about escorting a fallen Marine home to his family. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it.
I’ve served as a Casualty Assistance Calls Officer (CACO) in some my units, but thankfully never had to specifically carry out those duties. Throughout my training I was always amazed to what lengths our nation goes to in order to honor our fallen troops. The movie shows this to a great extent, but it really only scratches the surface. Know that no detail or expense is spared to bring our fallen home with honor and dignity.
During my training, I asked a lot of questions about Jewish burial. The DOD is familiar with our traditions, and I assume that there is at least one chaplain on staff to advise on these specific issues when something out of the ordinary arises. Like I said, every detail of a family’s wishes are a priority, so I felt comfortable with the DOD process.
The movie made me think about how different the story would have been if the subject had been Jewish. Much of what people see as “standard” honors are not in keeping with halacha.
I’m curious as to whether any of our readers have served as a CACO, an escort, or on a chevra kadisha for a fallen Jewish service member. If so, please leave a comment or email me directly. I’d like to know what your impressions of the process were, and if you felt that Jewish requirements were adequately met.
I’m always stressing how important it is for service members to have their wishes known in the, God forbid, case of one’s death. There is always a debate as to what goes on your dog tags, but at the very least, you need to have your religious preferences laid out in your emergency data, will, or other official form, so that your family doesn’t have to fight in order to ensure you are taken care of properly. If there is no official record of your wishes, it is quite possible that by the time the family finds out about the death, the care and preservation process might already be underway.