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.