From Chaplain Norris:
For me, Memorial Day has a face. It is the face of the family members whose loved one made the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Since 9/11, I’ve met these faces in at least 30 homes in my community.
If I could introduce you to these families, I would. But because I can’t, I’d like you to imagine today that you’ve joined my casualty notification team.
We unite with our team of four inside a nondescript military office where we watch a training video, map our route to the home of a newly widowed woman and memorize our scripted lines. The commander will deliver the bad news, the medic will watch for signs of stress, and you and I will offer pastoral care.
Within the hour of being paged out of our everyday routines, we drive our dark blue military sedan into a civilian neighborhood where we find an address that doesn’t want to be found. As we step from the car, we look much like a small parade formation, a living breathing cliché.
We park a few hundred yards from the house and you use the walking time to ask me questions.
“Will this notification be like your previous ones?” you ask. “How long will we stay?” and “How will the people respond” you want to know. I tell you that the only certainty is that my past notifications will give us no working schematic for this day. Nothing about these no-notice visits is ever predictable.
All I can say is that in the past I’ve heard an anguished father launch into a political diatribe blaming the president for his son’s death. I recall another visit where I interrupted a child’s birthday party, and in yet another instance, I recount stopping a family’s airport reunion to tell them their son wasn’t on the plane.
You shake your head and I stare at the Disney welcome mat while the commander knocks on the door. I catch a side-glance of the commander mouthing his script. It’s a script that will go something like this: