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Skald the Rhymer
06-14-2006, 11:12 AM
Yet another thread about Skald's novel-in-progress; that makes 1,000,0002.

This should be a fairly simple question. My novel has two protagonists, one of whom is Andy T., who is a ten-year-old boy at the beginning of the story. In the first chapter we learn that Andy's father, a Marine gunnery sergeant serving in the reserves, has been killed on a training mission. As written, his family is told of Andrew Senior's death by Major George Parker, who becomes important later in the story; he is the only survivor of the plane crash that killed Andrew, he served with Andrew in Vietnam, and he brings to the family Andrew's bowie knife, a family heirloom of sorts.

Anyway, .as I work on the latest draft of the story, it occurs to me that having George deliver the news of Andrew's death is just too convenient. The plane crash takes place in the Gulf of Mexico, while Andy's family lives in Memphis; if George was in the plane crash, even if he escaped unscathed, surely he'd be too far away to be the first choice to deliver such news, despite being a long-time friend of his family. Is my feeling correct here? And, if so, who would be the person who delivered the news--that is, would it be an officer or an non-com? Would it necessarily be someone from the Marines? (The story's set the mid-80s, at which time there was a Naval Air Station in the area.)

Thanks in advance for any help. As always, if anybody can point me to specific sources of information on the web, I'd be grateful.

Aguecheek
06-14-2006, 02:36 PM
Can't remember where I first found it, but the Rocky Mountain News (http://denver.rockymountainnews.com/news/finalSalute/) had a fantastic series on a Marine Major whose only job was notifying families and seeing them through the whole process. Very informative, it gives you a lot of information of what goes on behind the scenes, and the interactions with the family.

I was blubbering like a 2-year-old by the time I'd finished reading it.

robby
06-14-2006, 03:58 PM
A Casualty Assistance Calls Officer (CACO) is assigned to act as a liason between the USMC and the next of kin. They inform the next of kin in person of the death and act as a point of contact for the family.

The CACO is usually an officer who lives in the vicinity of the next of kin (i.e. assigned to the closest base). Recruiters are often used because they are spread out all over the country.

It is unlikely, in general, that the assigned CACO would know the deceased. Because time is of the essense, an officer already in the vicinity of the next of kin would preferentially be used.

Plus, your officer at the scene of the crash would probably be caught up in the crash investigation.

More info:
http://marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/oifassist
https://manpower.usmc.mil/portal/page?_pageid=278,1952478&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL

kunilou
06-14-2006, 04:26 PM
In his book The Boys of Summer Roger Kahn told the story of Clem Labine, whose son, a Marine, lost his leg in Vietnam.

A day later, I telephoned Marine headquarters in Manhattan and asked how badly a man had to be hurt in Indochina for his family to be notified personally instead of by wire.

A sergeant named Mike Burrows called back. "In this was," he said, as though reading, "next of kin are notified personally not only in the event of death but for any wound, however slight. We dispatch a telegram of confirmation, but an individual, frequently an officer, always precedes the telegram."

Since the goal was to notify the family personally ASAP, the Marines would not have waited until a friend of the family was available.

On a side note, the Marine son of friends of ours recently died (not service related). A Marine at the funeral home told us there would be at least one Marine with the body at all times until internment.

Cluricaun
06-14-2006, 04:28 PM
However you do have literary license to have your Major insist on delivering the news personally, nevermind the logistics and logic that the real world insists on.

Skald the Rhymer
06-14-2006, 04:34 PM
A Casualty Assistance Calls Officer (CACO) is assigned to act as a liason between the USMC and the next of kin. They inform the next of kin in person of the death and act as a point of contact for the family.

The CACO is usually an officer who lives in the vicinity of the next of kin (i.e. assigned to the closest base). Recruiters are often used because they are spread out all over the country.

It is unlikely, in general, that the assigned CACO would know the deceased. Because time is of the essense, an officer already in the vicinity of the next of kin would preferentially be used.

Plus, your officer at the scene of the crash would probably be caught up in the crash investigation.

More info:
http://marines.mil/marinelink/mcn2000.nsf/oifassist
https://manpower.usmc.mil/portal/page?_pageid=278,1952478&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL

Many thanks. So it seems I was correct in thinking that I need to change the line identifying George as the person who told the family about the father's death, no?

Skald the Rhymer
06-14-2006, 04:36 PM
However you do have literary license to have your Major insist on delivering the news personally, nevermind the logistics and logic that the real world insists on.

Nah. It would bug me too much. I never intended to have it be one role; it developed that way during writing, and as I rewrite it strikes me as improbable. I can still have him deliver the personal effects (such as the bowie knife) without him being the person to deliver the bad news.

Rick
06-14-2006, 05:25 PM
Can't remember where I first found it, but the Rocky Mountain News (http://denver.rockymountainnews.com/news/finalSalute/) had a fantastic series on a Marine Major whose only job was notifying families and seeing them through the whole process. Very informative, it gives you a lot of information of what goes on behind the scenes, and the interactions with the family.

I was blubbering like a 2-year-old by the time I'd finished reading it.
Make that two of us.
I got e mailed the picture from page 11 (http://rockymountainnews.com/drmn/news/article/0,1299,DRMN_3_4224687,00.html) of that story a few months back. I am glad to have had a chance to read the entire story. That is some powerful reporting.
Honor, some will never know it, some will never lose it.

A.R. Cane
06-14-2006, 06:08 PM
Actually the CACO is normally not the officer who makes the death notification. The officer assigned to make notification often becomes an emotional tie to the loss, for the bereaved, this is undestandable and for that reason they don't want that officer to have continued contact. The CACO usually contacts the family within 2-3 days after the death notification. The CACO's job is to assist the family w/ any and all death benefits and/or funeral arrangements.
Death notification is done by an officer (in some unusual cases it may be an NCO) of equal or superior rank. They will be accompanied by a chaplain. Although the Marines are a part of the Dept. of the Navy, they will normally make every attempt to send a marine to notify about the death of a Marine. The chaplain will normally be a Naval officer. These two officers will normally take extreme measures to locate the NOK and a try to assure that the first word of the death comes from them and not by some other means.
Since NAS Memphis would have had one or more Marine units attached, that is the logical choice for the command to provide these services.
I was never involved in this aspect, but I have done several graveside memorial services. This includes an 18 gun salute, fired in 3 volleys of 6, and the folding and presentation of the flag to the NOK.

Rick
06-14-2006, 06:39 PM
If you read Aguecheek link to the Rocky Mountain News story, it appears that the Marine CACO does both the notification as well as the follow up.

Cluricaun
06-14-2006, 07:07 PM
I can still have him deliver the personal effects (such as the bowie knife) without him being the person to deliver the bad news.

Hopefully he's not having to pull a Capt. Koons with that bowie knife. :eek:

Skald the Rhymer
06-14-2006, 08:18 PM
Actually the CACO is normally not the officer who makes the death notification. ... Since NAS Memphis would have had one or more Marine units attached, that is the logical choice for the command to provide these services. ...

Many thanks. Since neither the notifier nor the CACO is a primary character, it's enough that I know that it wouldn't be George, since he's so far away when the accident occurs and since he's likely involved in whatever investigation.

One thing more: Is the notifier going to actually be an officer? In other words, should my text read "It had been six days since Major Al B. Sure told the family..." etc?

Monty
06-14-2006, 09:11 PM
I'm guessing you might not want to call the character George. In Navy parlance, that's the most junior officer who, of course, gets the cruddy assignments.

Baker
06-14-2006, 09:16 PM
I have just read the linked article, and something I noticed was that one officer said "Somehow they always know" about when the Marines show up at a family's door. I remember reading the book Who Gets the Drumstick?, by Helen North Beardsley. She was the real mother in the "Yours, Mine, and Ours" story. Her first husband, a Navy pilot, was killed in a training accident when she was thirty three and pregnant with their eighth child. A priest came to deliver the news, and when she opened the door and saw him her words were "This is an official visit, isn't it Father?" "Yes, Helen, I'm afraid it is" "He's not hurt then, he's really gone." "He's really gone Helen". And after that she didn't remember much for a while.

That article had me crying too.

Drum God
06-14-2006, 09:29 PM
In his book The Boys of Summer Roger Kahn told the story of Clem Labine, whose son, a Marine, lost his leg in Vietnam.


A sergeant named Mike Burrows called back. "In this was," he said, as though reading, "next of kin are notified personally not only in the event of death but for any wound, however slight. We dispatch a telegram of confirmation, but an individual, frequently an officer, always precedes the telegram."

On a side note, the Marine son of friends of ours recently died (not service related). A Marine at the funeral home told us there would be at least one Marine with the body at all times until internment.


Wasn't there a movie about Vietnam-era wives who got together to notify friends whose husbands died in Vietnam? Telegrams were being delivered with the unhappy news, but no follow-up, visits by casualty officers, or anything. Several women so treated got together and started helping their fellow war widows.

Regarding staying with the body, I believe a similar thing was said in the recent funeral episode on ER. In this case, a doctor serving in the Army Medical Corps was killed by an IED in Iraq. The widow was told that a soldier would stand guard until the burial.

Drum God
06-14-2006, 09:30 PM
Sorry. I should have previewed. The formatting in my above post got fouled up a bit. Sorry 'bout that.

A.R. Cane
06-14-2006, 09:57 PM
Many thanks. Since neither the notifier nor the CACO is a primary character, it's enough that I know that it wouldn't be George, since he's so far away when the accident occurs and since he's likely involved in whatever investigation.

One thing more: Is the notifier going to actually be an officer? In other words, should my text read "It had been six days since Major Al B. Sure told the family..." etc?

Yes, the officer assigned to this task will usually be a Capt. (0-3) or higher, junior officers are not normally chosen because of the maturity factor. I have no first hand knowledge of an NCO being chosen, but I believe it is possible in some unusual situation. I'm speaking from personal experience and anecdotally, I retired more than 27 years ago and things may have changed, but I think I'm giving you fairly accurate info. I'm also taking into consideration that you are writing fiction and want it to be plausible.

Monty
06-15-2006, 12:34 AM
A Navy CACO is an assigned senior member in the paygrade of E7 or above.

Klaatu
06-15-2006, 01:53 AM
Can't remember where I first found it, but the Rocky Mountain News (http://denver.rockymountainnews.com/news/finalSalute/) had a fantastic series on a Marine Major whose only job was notifying families and seeing them through the whole process. Very informative, it gives you a lot of information of what goes on behind the scenes, and the interactions with the family.

I was blubbering like a 2-year-old by the time I'd finished reading it.


Wow. Thank you for posting that link, just read the whole article. I can't even muster up words right now...

Mods, sorry for the OT post, but that is one powerful and poignant bit of reporting.

Tripler
06-15-2006, 12:06 PM
Wasn't there a movie about Vietnam-era wives who got together to notify friends whose husbands died in Vietnam? Telegrams were being delivered with the unhappy news, but no follow-up, visits by casualty officers, or anything. Several women so treated got together and started helping their fellow war widows.

Yep, that was We Were Soldiers, regarding the 1st Cav. during the battle of Ia Drang.

I don't know how true that was, since I am under the understanding an officer and chaplain notification was long since a standing thing since WWII.

Tripler
My two cents.

CrankyAsAnOldMan
06-15-2006, 01:23 PM
Yep, that was We Were Soldiers, regarding the 1st Cav. during the battle of Ia Drang.

I don't know how true that was, since I am under the understanding an officer and chaplain notification was long since a standing thing since WWII.


According to the article referenced above (assuming it's accurate), the officer notification was instituted towards the end of the Vietnam war.

In another note, I recently watched a program about a Marine Reserve unit that took substantial losses in Iraq. Concerning the death on one marine, his dad was home when the officer came to notify. His wife (the marine's mom) was out shopping. The father didn't think he could bear to tell her, so he asked the officer to stay until she returned. He also asked that they move their van so she would not be tipped off before coming in to the house. The officer complied with both wishes.

Leo Bloom
04-17-2017, 02:01 PM
Can't remember where I first found it, but the Rocky Mountain News (http://denver.rockymountainnews.com/news/finalSalute/) had a fantastic series on a Marine Major whose only job was notifying families and seeing them through the whole process. Very informative, it gives you a lot of information of what goes on behind the scenes, and the interactions with the family.

I was blubbering like a 2-year-old by the time I'd finished reading it.

Link is dead.

NYTimes reprint/excerpt. (http://nytimes.com/slideshow/2008/06/04/books/20080605_SALUTE_SLIDESHOW_index.html)

FTR: First SD post done with tears in my eyes.

JHBoom
04-17-2017, 07:29 PM
Taking Chance (http://chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/), the story that inspired the movie.

Performing funeral details, as an active-duty staff member of a Marine Corps Reserve unit, remains one of the hardest, yet most honorable and fulfilling tasks I performed in a 20+ year military career.

Bear_Nenno
04-17-2017, 09:00 PM
How's the book coming along?

Kimballkid
04-18-2017, 02:02 PM
Link is dead.

Probably because this thread is 11 years old.

Bryan Ekers
04-18-2017, 02:20 PM
Link is dead.

Somebody better tell its family.

UncleRojelio
04-18-2017, 02:25 PM
I thought Skald retired from The Dope. At least that is what prompted me to look at the post date. That and the ER reference.

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