Rev. Marie B. Tracy

Homebound on a Distant Shore

I am going to start today with three stories:

Story 1: I want you to imagine a young man. He is 22. He is filled with hope as he graduates college, commissions into the Army, and marries his high-school sweetheart. This new Lieutenant is deploying, but it’ll be okay. He’ll be in Kuwait – “out of harm’s way,” he tells his family. During this deployment, though, this young Lieutenant is assigned to Mortuary Affairs. Day in and day out, his job is to clean and prepare the bodies of servicemembers who died in Iraq before they are flown back to the United States. He and his fellow soldiers prepare scores of bodies, all of whom are brothers, sisters, friends, spouses, and children to their grief-stricken communities back home. For 12 months, the Lieutenant knows and processes every extinguished life that passes through this base. With each body, he begins to feel a bit number to the reality of his job. Then, just about the time he is preparing to deploy home, the young Lieutenant realizes that he is now more accustomed to be around the Dead than the Living.