Mortuary Affairs

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Office Hours of Operation
Mon-Fri: 7:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
Closed Weekends, Holidays and AFMC Family Days

Please note that these are only the Office hours. Mortuary Affairs and Casualty Assistance are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

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Mortuary affairs, casualty assistance aid fallen service members' families

by Nicole Turner - Staff Writer

2/25/2011 - TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- The loss of a loved one is a tragic experience that can leave an entire family, friends and co-workers devastated.

The Department of Defense mortuary affairs and casualty program addresses the need to "take care of its own."

Mortuary affairs and the casualty assistance office, in the 72nd Force Support Squadron at Tinker Air Force Base, work with families after the death of a loved one to give them the best support possible, said mortuary technician James Wright.

When a military individual on active duty (or Guard and Reserve members on active duty orders) passes away, his or her family members, or next of kin, are immediately notified by a team of individuals that generally consist of that person's commander, a medical officer and chaplain.

"The casualty assistance office is the first office that is called when there is an active duty death," said Patricia Black, casualty assistance representative. "We are the main POC (point of contact) for notifying the next of kin."

Within 24 hours of notification, a briefing is scheduled to inform the family on their funeral options as well as final pay and benefits. The family also is assigned a liaison officer, who consistently speaks with the family and checks in on them throughout the process.

"The family liaison officer (a master sergeant or above) is a very important part of the overall process of taking care of the family after the death of a loved one. That officer is the link between the family and the Air Force," Mr. Wright said.

"The officer stays in constant contact for up to a year after the family member's death. That's part of the Air Force taking care of its own."

The FLO helps the family with paperwork, scheduling meetings, getting base passes or appointments, "never intrusive, but always there," said Mr. Wright.

Families have many options within the program. They can take care of their loved ones final arrangements themselves. Or they can have the Air Force handle all the arrangements for them. Or they can chose a combination of the two, Mr. Wright said.

These options range from the choice of a specific casket or urn, where the service will be held, what the individual will be dressed in for burial -- service-dress uniform or other uniforms or clothes, the place of burial -- national cemetery or another cemetery the family wants. Also, the Department of Veterans Affairs provides a standard headstone.

The family may also be entitled to have their loved one transported under the mortuary program to the final place of burial, and the DOD mortuary program covers travel expenses of authorized family members.

Every individual and circumstance is unique which makes it difficult to communicate every detail of the mortuary and casualty programs.

"There are many moving parts to the programs, with a tremendous number of personnel involved from many different organizations," Mr. Wright said. "In each case, death is handled with tremendous respect for the deceased Airman and compassion for surviving family members."

For more information regarding military death benefits, contact mortuary affairs at 739-5372 or the casualty assistance office at 734-2591.

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