When a soldier has made the ultimate sacrifice, there is a group of fellow soldiers specially trained to care for their remains with dignity and honor. Taking care of those soldiers who take care of the fallen was a critical part of James Sutter’s job in the U.S. Army.
“The mental fortitude that all my soldiers had to be able to do that mission over and over again, it astounded me,” said Capt. Sutter, 28, of St. Louis County.
“To relate it to people who aren’t in the military — every time you’ve seen a movie about the conflicts in Iraq or Afghanistan, every single time you see a helicopter crash or a soldier get killed, one of my soldiers took care of them. Every single one was a real person that had family left behind...”
The creed of the Army’s mortuary affairs specialists is “Dignity, Reverence, Respect.” Those words were at the forefront of the sacred mission that fell to Sutter’s soldiers as they readied each fallen comrade to be returned to their families.
From properly recovering and identifying the remains of the deceased, to safeguarding their personal effects, to preparing the uniform a fallen soldier will wear, even in a closed casket — these are among the sensitive tasks that must be performed just so, before a hero’s body is sent on its final journey home.
The job is not for everyone, Sutter said, but knowing the impact the role has on family members back home is powerful. Read more.