Thursday, October 29, 2009

President Obama Attends Repatriation at Dover AFB

In mil-speak, a "repatriation" is the return of the remains of the fallen from theatre. It's a new thing in military history. In previous wars, Canadian and American dead were mostly buried where they fell. Now they come home for burial. In Canada, because we've had a relatively and blessed few deaths, each of the fallen returns to CFB Trenton, where the dead soldiers and their families are honoured by the Governor-General, the Minister of Defence, the Chief of Defence Staff, and/or other digniaries. I've heard one American soldier say gently that Canada's ceremonies are "over the top", by which he meant, I think, that his country can't spare the resources or the energy for our level of ceremony.

He's right in the sense that with over 4000 dead returning to the US through Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, it would be unfeasible to make all repatriations into high ceremonies. However, today President Barack Obama did something that his predecessor never did, and flew out to Dover before sunrise to attend the repatriation of fifteen US soldiers and three Drug Enforcement Agency staff killed in Afghanistan. The bodies came off the plane in flag-wrapped transfer cases, carried by soldiers, and after prayers by a chaplain, began their final journeys home.

President Barack Obama salutes as a carry team carries the transfer case containing the remains of Army Sgt. Dale R. Griffin of Terre Haute, Ind., who, accordng to the Department of Defense died in Afghanistan, during the dignified transfer event at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Del., Thursday, Oct. 29, 2009.
(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

To be fair to President George W. Bush, he preferred to visit privately with the families of fallen soldiers. However, it's possible that Obama felt the need to make this pilgrimage as he weighs whether to commit more US troops to go to Afghanistan in the coming months. American Press reported that Obama was moved by attending the repatriation:

"It was a sobering reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices that our young men and women in uniform are engaging in every single day, not only our troops but their families as well," Obama said later Thursday, hours after his return to the White House. "The burden that both our troops and their families bear in any wartime situation is going to bear on how I see these conflicts, and it is something that I think about each and every day."

Kudos to Obama for making the journey.

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Mad Padre

Mad Padre
Opinions expressed within are in no way the responsibility of anyone's employers or facilitating agencies and should by rights be taken as nothing more than one person's notional musings, attempted witticisms, and prayerful posturings.


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