By Samantha L. Quigley
Air Force Master Sergeant Andre Gattis doesn’t recall how many times he’s gone to port mortuary, part of the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations at Dover, Delaware. After more than 12 years on the job, he’s been there too many times to count.
But Gattis continues to volunteer for the assignment because he’s drawn to the solemn mission and he takes pride in making sure that fallen troops receive the highest level of dignity, honor and respect.
“My first time here was in 2002, shortly after the war kicked off. I wasn’t sure what to expect. There were sights, smells and sounds I wasn’t use to. Now those same things are a reminder that I’m here to perform an honorable mission taking care of our nation’s fallen.
There is no way around the tough part of working here. We see firsthand the impact war has on families of the fallen. My work helps return the fallen back to their families with dignity, honor and respect, as well as hopefully giving the families comfort and closure during a difficult time.
Although all of this might seem a bit grim, the pride and honor you get from serving the fallen and their families is like no other. All of the hard work is worth it when you get a letter from one of the families expressing their gratitude and appreciation for taking care of their loved one. This unique experience has given me a better appreciation for life, family and friends.”
– Samantha L. Quigley is the editor in chief of On Patrol.
Stories in this Series
Dec 22, 2014
Finding the Faith and Will to Fight On
While battling insurgents on the streets of Mosul, Iraq, Army Maj. Damon Armeni was severely wounded by a rocket-propelled grenade that nearly killed him. But this isn’t a story about what happened that day; it’s about where he found the strength to recover.
Dec 16, 2014
Constant Challenges Keep Trauma Surgeon Going
Dr. Raymond Fang said he “can’t begin to guess” how many patients he treated directly or whose cases he oversaw. He figures it’s in the thousands—fathers, mothers, sons and daughters who in past conflicts likely never would have survived beyond the battlefield.
Dec 10, 2014
The Little Men of Afghanistan
Afghan children don’t know their country’s history is one long, never-ending tragedy. They don’t know they can only expect to live 45 years, and to live those years in poverty. And no one need tell them they’ll know the sights and sounds of combat before they are teenagers.
Dec 3, 2014
Photos of Smiling Troops are the Story of Roker's USO Tour
Al Roker, the gregarious weatherman-turned-co-anchor of NBC’s “Today” gets hundreds of photo requests from fans standing just beyond the barriers of the show’s outdoor studio in the heart of Manhattan. On a 2014 USO tour, Roker was the one asking for photos.