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Honoring Fallen Warriors on their way home

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kasey Zickmund
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs
"There will be a brief ceremony today on the Main Ramp to honor our Fallen Warriors. All personnel are invited to attend and pay tribute to these heroes who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

For those unable to attend, please observe a moment of silence in your respective work areas."

The above excerpt is taken from a Fallen Warrior Ceremony e-mail invitation servicemembers see often while deployed, reminding us, even though we are warriors, we are not indestructible.

Some days there are many ceremonies and some there are none. We don't know who they are or what branch they are from but we honor them, no matter their affiliation, as they return home.

The ceremony takes place on a flightline at the rear of an aircraft, usually a C-17 Globemaster, with servicemembers lined up at 45 degree angles on both sides. Once the vehicles transporting the fallen warriors are in place, the ceremony commander will call servicemembers to attention, followed by "present arms." As the present arms order is called, servicemembers render a slow, solemn salute, followed by pallbearers loading the warriors onto the aircraft transporting them on their final journey home.

When the fallen warriors are loaded, the ceremony commander calls "order arms" and servicemembers slowly release their salutes. Then the commander will say "dismissed" and servicemembers will do an about-face movement. Members will then board the aircraft and surround the warriors.

A chaplain then begins a prayer about the warriors' service, gives thanks to them, and finishes with a final prayer for their journey home. After that, the ceremony is concluded, but some servicemembers will stay and say silent prayers of their own with the warriors.

After every ceremony I attend I can't help but cry a little, even though I didn't know them personally. The ceremony only takes a few minutes...but the impact it leaves with me is enormous because the obstacles they've faced might be the same ones I'll face down the road.

I encourage everyone to attend a Fallen Warrior Ceremony as often as you can to pay tribute to your military brothers and sisters who have died in the line of duty and for their country. Just attending one will leave a mark on you, and it varies from person to person, but for me...I feel a great sense of pride in what I and other servicemembers do on a daily basis to get the mission done, no matter the cost.

So to those who've fallen, I want to thank you for your service and the ultimate sacrifice you've made in the line of duty.