Heartbreaking: those who dress fallen warriors for eternity

I received this story from one of my retired military email networks and it’s something I didn’t know.

There are the heroes we know and there are the unseen heroes who ensure those fallen warriors who have given the last full measure of devotion are honored to the last moment — their final resting.

This is truly a brotherhood and sisterhood many will never understand. There is nothing to add to this story except tears.

uniform

The picture you see on this page was taken behind the scenes at Dover Air Force Base where the bodies of fallen soldiers are prepared for burial. And that includes being properly dressed, all the way down to the smallest detail.

In this picture Staff Sgt. Miguel Deynes is making sure the uniform is just right for an army pilot recently killed in Afghanistan.

There is a very specific process once a fallen soldier is returned home.

The bodies are flown back to the U.S. on a cargo jet. A team of service members wearing white gloves carries the coffins, covered with flags, to a white van that takes them to the Armed Forces Medical Examiner.

The remains are washed, the hands are scrubbed clean, and the hair is shampooed. If necessary bones are wired together and damaged tissue is reconstructed with flesh-toned wax.

Sometimes they will use photos, sometimes just intuition to recreate the wrinkles in faces, and the lines around the mouth or the corner of the eyes.

“It has to look normal, like someone who is sleeping.”

Once the body is ready then the uniform is prepared. That includes putting medals in the proper order on the ribbon rack above the jacket’s breast pocket.

During the height of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan 10 to 20 bodies were arriving every day.

The embalmers often worked all night to get the bodies home on time. That can take an emotional toll so the mortuary has a large gym so workers can blow off steam.

Many say they are haunted by how young the fallen soldiers are, and by how many of them leave behind small children.

That’s why Sgt. Deynes says they are advised not to do research into the backgrounds of the soldiers.

“If I knew the story of every individual who went through here, I would probably be in a padded cell.”

The dress uniform being prepared in this particular case will be in a closed casket.

Even so, it will be perfectly tailored, starched and pressed. Everything will be checked down to the last detail.

Sgt. Deynes says, “They’re (the family) not going to see it. I do it for myself. It’s more than an honor. It’s a blessing to dress that soldier for the last time.”

Rest in peace, steadfast and loyal.

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81 Comments on "Heartbreaking: those who dress fallen warriors for eternity"

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Mary Curry
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Thank you Mortuary Team.

Hatty
Guest

I am so thankful we have men like Sgt. Deynes who do their job with honor and respect. Thank you, Sgt. and God bless you. Thank you for sharing this story with us.

GGMLAW
Guest

That made cry! Breaks my heart.
Thank you Mr. West for sharing this meaningful story.

Jason Coley
Guest

May God Bless each and every Soldier who cares for their fellow fallen Soldiers. I pray for your peace, as you are truly a Grace and Comfort to the families during a most difficult time. Thank you tremendously for your work.

Tatti Bear
Guest

My husband died in service to this country. I want to personally thank men like Sgt. Deynes who handle our husbands, sons, fathers- with great dignity and care. It is during those hours of waiting for our loved one to come home that we are most restless, needing to take care of him one more time.. to run my fingers through his hair.. make sure he’s simply ok.. this last honor means more than words could ever convey. So glad I found and read this. Thank you Colonel West for sharing, Sir.

The proud wife of a fallen Airman.

MusicMom123 .
Guest
Tatti, My heart goes out to you. And if nothing else, know that I am keeping you in my Prayers. I have such great respect for the Families of our Military and for all that you endure as a loved one of someone in Service. I am so very sorry for your loss, but I hope you stay strong. You are loved. I live in an Aviation Family, and a poem that I have always loved comes to mind. I am sure you might have read it, but if not: HIGH FLIGHT Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of… Read more »
Erik Anderson
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If you get the opportunity read the story “Taking Chance” about a Marine Lt. Col. escorting home the body of a young Marine killed in combat. It is a great story but have some tissue handy.

Russ Rhodes
Guest

“Taking Chance” was also done as a movie starring Kevin Bacon. Well worth a look.

Daniel V
Guest

Hooah!

James Ernest Marsh
Guest

Amen to all brothers and sisters that have given there all and have fallen , We adore and we will miss you all .May the new land you all arrive in be beautiful skies and green lands with no turmoil should you ever have see again. WITH LOVE

Mari Upthegrove
Guest

I have read this several times and it never fails to move me. May you rest in peace, faithful servants, and may God bless you and yours.

Gail Lowery Briggs
Guest

God bless our soldiers and all those who pay them honor .

Brigadier
Guest

You hafta watch the HBO movie “Taking Chance” with Kevin Bacon. It is very moving.

dittoheadadt
Guest

Available via iTunes, and well worth the cost, IMHO. Just FYI to anyone who isn’t aware of the movie or how to get it.

Firefly7819
Guest

Taking Chance is where I learned of this tribute to our fallen warriors. A must watch.

Arthur Longeno Pavis Jr
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Arthur Longeno Pavis Jr

My heart breaks for all of our fallen warriors. The sacrifice they give we could never hope to repay. This is the respect they deserve on their way to Eternity.

ace1usmc .
Guest

Mr. West, please watch a movie called “Taking Chance”. It completely blew me away how these folks honor our fallen brothers and sisters in arms – when no one is watching or will sometimes ever even know. THAT is honor.

Syrakelly
Guest

Excellent movie-but have a box of tissues!

Rebecca Brothers
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Thank you to every single person that has and still wears the uniform of our armed services. Many blessings to the team of people that prepare them for their final rest. I wish evey person could see this. I feel blessed. Much dignity. Prayers to you all. Thank you for sharing this Lt. Col. West.

justathought22
Guest

Thank you never seems enough to those that have served and to those that currently serve. May God bless you all and watch over you and your families.

Turbocankro
Guest

I don’t think you have to watch anything. This is one of the most humble-yet-profound things I’ve ever read. Should I find myself before God, I would say that Allen West is a true patriot and Sgt. Deynes is a testament to all mankind.

Greg Messer
Guest

I am honored to know this and I wish t thank these guys for the behind the scenes work that they do.
Thank you and God Bless

The_Patriot
Guest

Integrity, You do what’s right whether someone of Authority is watching or not. Websters, says, “adherence to moral and ethical principles” never wavering.

I wish to salute Staff Sgt. Miguel Deynes, and others like him, for taking care of our fallen with Dignity, Honor and Integrity. The soldiers who have passed deserve nothing less than the absolute best..

God Bless The Soldiers who fight, fought and died for our country and to those who care for the fallen in every way possible

Kelly Lynn
Guest
My heart does not break for my fallen Brothers and Sisters. They are beyond that now. I feel for the families, the children who grow never knowing their parent or uncles or aunts. The spouse who must raise the children without the help of their loved one. The parents who bury what may be their only son or daughter. No the fallen are to be celebrated and their lives honored by ensuring that the sacrifices they made were never in vain. To ensure that their families are cared for and their children helped to remember them or to learn of… Read more »
namvet
Guest

Kelly Lynn, you really said some beautiful things. I wish everyone could read what you have posted. Thank you.

Estella Bunny Howe
Guest

Kelly Lynn, that was truly beautiful. Thank you.

Marshall
Guest

My God how touching, too bad stories like this don’t get on the evening news. Maybe people would respect those who sacrifice and I am not talking about just the ones that die. My thoughts and prayers go out to those who serve. We have only ONE LIFE and it will soon be past and only what’s done for Christ will last. As he said in his word “if you’ve done it unto these LITTLE ONES, you have done it UNTO ME! God Bless America and the families that have given the ultiment sacrifice.

Chris Sanchez
Guest

If you want to “see” how the fallen are treated, watch “Taking Chance” starring Keven Bacon. The movie is based on the two-page report by Lt. Col. Michael Strobl, who volunteered to escort a fallen Marine, Chance Phelps to their mutual home town. It is actually pretty much of a docu-drama, in that, the director, Kevin Bacon, wanted to stay as close as possible to Colonel Strobl’s moving report.

dittoheadadt
Guest

I came to the comments precisely to share the same information about “Taking Chance.” Well done, Chris (and others, I now see).

soundnfury
Guest

When I think of these servicemen who gave the last full measure, and then think of our elected officials who are always taking the first helping, it makes me sick.

Estella Bunny Howe
Guest

Whew! Allen, that was a tough article to read. Thank you for sharing that with us. That is one tough duty to pull. But how nice to know this —- wish the rest of the Country showed this kind of respect to our fallen heroes—–including the so called CIC. Bet he couldn’t even begin to handle something like this.

Bill Mahoney
Guest

There are no words. God bless them all.

RichardandJan Bawol
Guest
I fought in Vietnam and this brought tears to my eyes. I had two 1st cousins kia there and now I’m dying due to Agent Orange and Ischemic Heart Disease!! One of my cousins that I was able to make the funeral (had just come home from Nam) had stepped on a landmine and you could tell he had no body from the waist down and gloves were filled with wire to make it look like he had hands. Of course they were under glass. I don’t know if they still do that, although I imagine they would!
namvet
Guest

I salute you Sgt.Deynes. You are a man of honor.

Marion Spencer
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What steadfast dedication. You honor them sir and they know it.

Twerk_this_Obama
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How any American could not be moved by this honorable process is unfathomable to me…but there is one person in DC, unfortunately.

Billy Bob Usn Ret
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No, there many in D.C.

MmeMoxie
Guest

Billy Bob … You are so, on point with your statement!!! Too many in D.C., do NOT care, except about their next election!!!

Forever American
Guest

Kevin Bacon in “Taking Chance” shows the incredible honor that these men and women show to our fallen heroes. This is an act or love and respect.

Katie Coyle
Guest

Cried for the Sgt. Deynes & for all who have been killed and/or injured. God bless all those who take care of our wounded and killed. You are all heros. Thank you for all you do.

IFGA
Guest

While I agree that this is a most welcome action, I have to wonder what happens when they only are able to return 20 pounds of the remains. People don’t realize that in many cases the entire body is not recovered. I state this from memories of Vietnam.

ZH38
Guest

Funerals are not for the dead but for the living. It is a way of saying good bye and having some psychological closure.

Reba
Guest

It’s a closed casket.

Ruth Foust Wayer
Guest

God bless all of you who honor our fallen troops with this effort. It’s an heroic action and highly emotionally taxing to give these heroes what they deserve. I wish FOX would do a tasteful documentary on your work. The world needs to know.

NavyVietVetJD
Guest

Flew out of Vietnam on a body flight in March 69, with 27 fallen in the bay behind us. Still haunts me to see the flag-draped coffins cranking up into the bay. I was fortunate to leave intact. So good to finally see how these strong and heroic men are honored. God keep them close and at peace, and thank God for Sgt.Deynes and those others who provide their final care and honors here on earth.

ZH38
Guest

Touching story. The 99% of us who did not serve in Iraq or Afghanistan owe it to these fallen heroes to stop the tyranny we are seeing. They did not die so that America could be destroyed from within.

Charles Martel
Guest

God bless those who serve in such an honorable way.

Steve Pohlit
Guest

I don’t know how to express the gratitude for those who server and appreciation for
Staff Sgt. Miguel Deynes and many more who help with this final honor. I hadn’t thought about this and recognize this a very special person who provides this final service for those who gave all. Wow – God is blessing you for sure.

Anna Smith
Guest
This is truly an honorable profession. We, as citizens, need to encourage our government to provide the families of the fallen with the utmost respect as is seen here. Unfortunately, our families are not always treated with such dignity. A friend of mine was killed in Afghanistan. His personal effects were sent via FedEx to his wife with no notice of their arrival. Upon opening the completely impersonal box, she discovered that she’d been mailed the effects of another fallen soldier. She then had to go through channels to return those effects to the proper soldier’s family, and track down… Read more »
ZH38
Guest

The story you relate is indicative of how most democrat administrations regard the military. Sad and unacceptable.

Reba
Guest

Not acceptable in anyway.

Steve Toller-Kopp
Guest
I’m not sure how I feel about this. I’ve never served and never had anyone close who served or died in service, so perhaps I see it differently. Firstly I honor, respect, admire, and give gratitude to the men and women in all branches of the service, regardless of their specific rank, title, or duty in the service. It truly hurts knowing men and women are lost fighting for this country and I can’t even begin to imagine the pain of their survivors. But it truly pisses me off that this is a reality of the world we live in.… Read more »
glenn
Guest
Steve if the brave men and women didn’t do this job we would be in a big mess. We have to honor our dead.If it weren’t for them giving their life then the entire nation would be lost.We haven’t lost no where near as many men and women in this latest war , but we can never forget them neither. Our Nation at this time is going to be lost because we have a very incompetent president that hates the United States and is willing to do whatever it takes to destroy it. That is why he is letting the… Read more »
MmeMoxie
Guest
Utopia does not exist!!! It never has and never will, due to many of mankind’s shortcomings, of a good, solid moral compass. First of all, NO ONE is guaranteed any time on Earth … The real truth is … The moment you take your first breath of life … You are preparing to take your last breath of life … None of us, knows when, where or how. Don’t believe me, ask any medical doctor and they will confirm, what I just said. I honor all men and women that have served, in all of the Armed Forces … Especially… Read more »
Terrence Jackson
Guest

The fact that there are those who are NOT OK with this job, but maintain the intelect to understand it’s necesity gives me hope for our race. Thank you for baring your soul. ABEC T.R.Jackson U S NAVY RET.

Billy Bob Usn Ret
Guest
Since you never served, you would be hard pressed to understand military life. On base, you are part of a big family. Everyone dresses the same, follows the same rules and have the same goals, which is to protect and preserve this great country of ours. The camaraderie of the military is extremely strong. Go outside the gate and it’s almost as if you are entering a different world. The close nit feeling one has on base is not there, more of every man for him/her/self. Sorry if this doesn’t come out correctly as I know how I feel but… Read more »
Willard Phillips
Guest

Nuts. USMC

Billy Bob Usn Ret
Guest

And then there is always that 1%. Right Willard.

Tawni Britton
Guest

Steve, what your missing is the honor we feel, we share, we earned, and we deserve. You say we are only here for 100 years to sit back, relax, and enjoy it…but when you go someone will make sure you are properly taken care of, dressed, and ready to be presented to your family. This is no different, except the honor is with us the entire time..no one would know in a closed casket if they job was not done properly but would any military member call into question their honor and integrity in this job..No they would not.

Tom
Guest
Steve, You may not like it, our world we live in today. It did not get this way over night, and yes many have died to make America a place where you can live out your life like you said.. to just raise your family and grow old and die.. We no long have a draft, to send our young folks off to war , that forced our young 18 year boys to become men in just a matter of just a few weeks of training , its all volunteer today.. .The facts are, it took the lives of thousands… Read more »
Reba
Guest
Steve, I can’t speak for everyone, but we that live the Military Life, are a different breed. Our Men and Women that Serve and the Families that Serve with them, understand what you say and at the same time, understand why we do it. I remember as a little girl, asking my Daddy please not to go. He would tell me; this is his job and to always remember why he serves; “To Protect Our Country” and “To Protect His Family”. My husband who served 30 years was rarely home and each time he left, I never knew if he… Read more »
Steve Toller-Kopp
Guest
Thank you all for offering an “inside view” of things. I honestly mean no disrespect at all and I’m glad that came across. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not dreaming of a utopian society, that would never be a reality in this world. And I haven’t lived a totally sheltered life, I grew up in San Francisco going to school with military kids that come-and-go, from the bases in the area. I’ve worked with those who have served. But at the same time, I don’t have that personal, close experience either. After reading all of your responses, I conclude that… Read more »
Reba
Guest
Steve, your post was not disrespectful in anyway. You expressed yourself very well. When you grow up with Military in your Family and you have a Military father, then you marry a Military Man and work with the Military your whole career, it is part of your being. I have known many that never lived in that world and I can understand where they come from. As an example, a young lady I know that had never had connections to the Military and that hasn’t been married long to a Special Force man. She has fretted for months about his… Read more »
onesoldiersmom
Guest

Gut wrenching story.

Thomas Darkvane
Guest

You’re right Col there is nothing more to add to this story but tears. God bless you all who do this work.

Amc Capone
Guest

crying and not enough tissues

Judy Kempen
Guest

Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. The fight will never be over. These men are few and far between. War, being the natural inclination of men who seek power, will always be with us. No barbaric aggressor was ever brought down by negotiation. Sadly, many fail to appreciate all they sacrifice.

ZH38
Guest

Amen. People seem to forget that we fight wars overseas so we don’t have to fight them at home.

jakefromstatefarm
Guest

Having spent 22 years in the Army, I can’t think of a more heart wrenching job than this. Brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it. God Bless these young men and women who perform this difficult task!

ZH38
Guest

The tears well up in my eyes as well. While not a veteran myself, my grandfather served in WWII and retired from the service. His 21-gun salute at the graveside service is a memory that will stay with me forever.

johnnywood
Guest

Ditto for my dad who server twenty years in the Navy, Army and the Air Force who also got a twenty-one gun salute. One of my brothers went and collect the spent shells and gave each of us one. I still have mine.

Kelly
Guest

I am an air force brat moved around my whole life so I completely support the brave men and women that serve our country. However I do not support this war nor do I think that United States of America is a place I honestly would fight for! Most Americans today are handed everything and young people have no sense of a work ethic or being responsible for there actions! It’s not a wonder every other country hates America! We have the potential to be as great as we once were!

jerseydevil
Guest
That “job” is really horrible…and I’d love to be able to hug all who do it at the end of their day… Watching the movie Taking Chance doesn’t frame it all as it is… But… http://www.amazon.com/They-Were-Ours-Gloucester-Countys/dp/0970523106 They Were Ours Tells the story of guys we lost from our NJ County in Vietnam. One of the most heart breaking stories comes from my home town… Jeffery Thibault died in Vietnam…and he was there w/a couple of guys he grew up with. http://www.njvvmf.org/vetmemorial.html?id=1918 The one part of the story that still grabs me to this day is about his childhood friend: Barry… Read more »
Mess_ Truck
Guest
At the end of hostilities during Desert Storm, I was driving my HMMWV towards a graves registration unit with the canvas walls surrounding it. As I got closer, I saw what looked like a turkey fly up in the air and then down. Then I saw it again and again. I finally got close enough to see that it was a blackened volleyball. The graves registration people had no business to conduct so they were playing volleyball behind the canvas walls. I wish all of our wars had been fought with so few casualties that the graves registration units had… Read more »
Saltporkdoc
Guest

My suggestion has always been that the two (or however many antagonist nations/entities there are) highest ranking polititians be put in a darkened cage for one month, whoever comes out wins. Far fewer casualties..far less meaningful loss to the combatant nations/entities.

kapitts
Guest

watch ‘taking chance’ with kevin bacon. great movie and you see some of the meticulous things they do to prep the bodies.

Saltporkdoc
Guest

I, a Vietnam veteran, Navy Corpsman, Marine rifle company Sr Corpsman, cried all the way through the move and the lump in my throat prevented taking my wife out to dinner after seeing that movie…quietly powerful!

chngrffn
Guest

Taking Chance was an incredible movie. I had no idea about this either. Tough job

Donna Leonard
Guest

to all those who served thank you and to those families who lost loved ones i am so very sorry for your loss, in memory of my Grandfather RQMS Sydney Chapman first world war 1915 to 1919 is when he was in service

johnnywood
Guest

It is good to be reminded of those who care for the remains of our fallen heroes. Hooyah!