The Last Uniform

The Last Uniform


I remember one time sitting here and I met
with a family and the mother was just looking down at the table. She stopped me after I
left the room and grabbed me and said, “When you get back to the mortuary, can you hold
my son’s cheeks in your hands and tell him that his mother loves him?” and things like
that … that she’s trusting me to be able to do something like that it’s worthwhile.
I am HM1Jennifer Heiselman. And I am HM1 Whit Sloane, and we are Navy Liaisons at Dover
Port Mortuary, also known as Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations.
A Navy liaison is a well-rounded person that takes care of not only the fallen Marine or
Sailor, but also their families and everybody in the command that were to come here and
witness a dignified transfer. If we do have a death, we would welcome the
family to Dover. We would secure their lodging; take care of them while they’re here, take
them to the flight line. We have a brief that we go over with them and all the details of
what they are going to expect, brief our escorts and make travel arrangements for the remains
and the escorts. We would measure the fallen and choose the
right uniform.. Most of the time they go in their dress blues, both Navy and Marines,
unless the family decides they want something different.
Every Irish pennant is snipped. We roll a new neckerchief. We press and steam the uniform.
We get it tailored professionally. We get the awards and decorations and make the ribbon
rack. Then we go back and do a final once-over inspection and make sure that everything is
just right. Everything has to be perfect…better than
our uniforms because it’s going to be there last uniform. It’s got to be right, and if
it’s not right we need to fix it. And we do. We are trained for corpsman duties but we’ll
always be morticians. And we’re the only ones in the Navy that know how to do this job.
We can embalm, we can do restorative work. And we can make those arrangements that nobody
else can do. And let me be clear, I don’t want to do anything
else but this. I love it. Love it. There’s not a day goes by that I hate my job, that
I dread going to work. People go, “but you’re a funeral director.” Yeah, I am. I love it.
I’m proud to be here. This is a dream duty station for any mortician. So much happens
here and you get to be a part of it. And to be able to bring fallen Marines and Sailors
home is overwhelming. I make a difference, and to me making a difference
is very important. No corners are cut here. We take care of our own. We can’t bring them
back, but we do the best we can to help the family achieve the type of closure that allows
them to grieve healthily and move on. You have to be strong and be able to hold
up a father that’s falling on the flight line, and be able to be kind of a rock in that moment.
Patience and the ability to just listen to people because really they just want to talk
to you. I think you got to be a compassionate person.
You’ve got to be there for people you don’t know and people you may never see again, and
you’ve got to help them through the most difficult thing in their life ever. And we help navigate
that, and we make it easier. if the unthinkable happens, we will take care
of them. Trust us in that. And not just the service member, but their family members as
well. There may be only 12 of us, we’re going to make sure that you’re done right.
We’re here 24/7 for active duty, for their dependents. No matter where you are in the
world, we will get you home with honor and dignity care and respect.

25 Replies to “The Last Uniform”

  1. A hard duty whose importance is often not noted. This service is of high humanity and require a will uncommon for we thanks. the ultimate uniform, we may call it. claudio alpaca

  2. I wish this job didn't exist but unfortunately it has to and these people who do the job are true overlooked professionals. Thank you for your service to our military who pay the ultimate sacrifice to defend our freedom

  3. U.S Navy 8 year Veteran Petty Officer 3rd Class E-4, This is the one job that I probably would not ever be able to do ๐Ÿ˜ž๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธIF I was still serving BUT at the same time IF I received orders for this Military Post I would Obviously have no choice ๐Ÿ‡บ๐Ÿ‡ธโ€ผ๏ธ

  4. One job I am glad I never had, I had to relay an am cross message to a guy because 3 people I had to call weren't picking up for hours that was one day at NAS Damneck that I really regretted.

  5. America has a large number of soldiers and at the forefront
    I am dispatching in large quantities and I think that it is a fine country.

  6. Bravo Zulu Docs. A difficult job to deal with the end of life, but you and your crew do so with the utmost dignity and respect for the Fallen and their families. Your's is a job few outside the service know of, but those who do, hold you all in the highest regards. Semper Fidelis et Semper Fortis.
    From a Desert Storm Doc.

  7. I SPENT 22 YRS IN SERVICE AND NO COMPLAINT TO OUR
    DOCTORS, DENTAL TECH, CORPSMAN,…BUT WHEN I RETIRED AND GO BACK TO MY HOME COUNTRY….SERVICE
    PROVIDER SUCH AS TRICARE AND V,A. HISPITAL ARE
    USELESS HERE IN THE PHILIPPINES. FOR V.A. HOSPITAL
    AS EXAMPLE….ACCEPT ONLY VETERANS WITH SERVICE
    DISABILITIES…,,I AM 76 YEARS OLD, TWICE IN VIETNAM
    SERVICE, LEBANON, IRAN IRAQ WAR ON BOARD CARRIER,
    ENTEBBE CRISIS AND ALL MINI CRISIS SUCH AS MAYAGUEZ, GRENADA, NICARAGUA ON BOARD CARRIER,
    EVACUATION OF SAIGON AND CAMBODIA, PICKING UP
    BOAT PEOPLE..
    I HAVE TO TO MATHER IN SACRAMENTO FOR CHECK UP.
    MAYBE NEXT TIME IN GUAM. MY CLAIM FOR ASBESTOS AND AGENT ORANGE WERE DISAPPROVED.
    TRICARE IS USELESS ABROAD.
    I AM PAYING 149.00 DOLLARS MONTHLY FOR MEDICARE
    PART B..,…FOR WHAT, IF I CAN NOT USE TRICARE..,,

  8. MAY I ADD….I WAS THE STOCK CONTROL SUPERVISOR FOR FIRST DEPLOYMENT OF F14 ON BOARD USS ENTERPRISE CVN65, AND FIRST DEPLOYMENT OF FA18
    ON BOARD USS KENNEDY CV67. I RETIRED SCPO.

  9. From some who lives in the UK> You do a wonderful service to those who have given their lives for their country. But it not be more suitable if an alternative uniform was worn. For instance plain black.

  10. I was referring to the current members as to wear a plain black uniform. Not the fallen. Wearing camouflage uniform seems somewhat disrespectful.

  11. My uncle was a WWII Navy veteran, and requested that he be buried in his uniform. Thank you for the job you do. Forged by the Sea.

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