At Mortuary Affairs Collection Point at Camp Bastion, Afghanistan,
empty flag-draped transfer cases are prepared for fallen heroes on
February 25, 2012. Marines with Personnel Retrieval and Processing
Detachment, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward), have one of the
hardest jobs in the Corps — preparing remains for their final trip
home. Photo by USMC Cpl. Michele Watson
CAMP BASTION, Afghanistan (2/25/2012) – In times of war, sacrifices
must be made. For fallen Marines, the process of returning home is
paved with honor, respect and dignity.
Marines with Personnel
Retrieval and Processing have one of the hardest jobs in the Corps —
preparing remains for their final trip home.
[that] needs to be done,” said Lance Cpl. Hunter Foster, a PRP team
member, PRP Detachment, 1st Marine Logistics Group (Forward). “It's
a very respectable and very honorable job.”
PRP Marines handle
and care for all fallen service members, civilian Department of
Defense personnel, U.S. coalition forces, contractors, and local
nationals within Regional Command Southwest area of operations.
The process begins when the remains arrive at the Mortuary
Affairs Collection Point at Camp Bastion. A medical doctor is called
in to officially announce the time of death, and a death certificate
is written. PRP logs all injuries on an anatomical chart and
documents all items that are brought in with the body. Each item is
tagged and forwarded to Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan.
“The meticulous manner in which PRP Marines document the personal
effects that accompany the remains of our fallen heroes might seem
to be inconsequential in the big picture, but those items are
sometimes the last pieces of tangible evidence that a family member
can cling in remembrance,” said Capt. Clark Phillips,
officer-in-charge, PRP Det., 1st MLG (Fwd). “Whether it is a watch
that was passed down from father to son, or a wife's wedding ring,
that item is something a family member can embrace during the
grieving process and remember their loved one.”
Donaldson, non-commissioned officer-in-charge, PRP Det., 1st MLG (Fwd),
said the team has four hours to complete the process once the
remains reach their work space. Though it may seem like a long time,
each step requires a detailed review.
The team works through a checks and balance system to
ensure each case is accurate. A two-person integrity
validation is conducted for each individual job to ensure
all documentation is correct.
“Everyone has the
experience to know, not only their job, but everyone else's
job,” said Donaldson. “This shop is totally interchangeable.
We are very efficient.”
All Marines at PRP are on
call 24/7. Although the majority of the time remains are
brought in by respective units, there are occasions when the
team is sent out to retrieve fallen service members.
Staff Sgt. Armando Silva, staff non-commissioned
officer-in-charge, PRP Det., 1st MLG (Fwd), has been on
three deployments as part of a PRP detachment. He said the
most important part of the job is getting all fallen heroes
“When a service member is killed, we strive to
get them back to the states within 72 hours,” said Silva.
Occasionally, PRP Marines have time to help out in
the Bastion hospital, giving them the opportunity to
contribute in another arena.
“There are many people
who work here that are very talented,” said Foster, 21, from
Alpharetta, Ga. “You see some patients come in, and they're
in a bad situation, but the hospital personnel push them
through to a full recovery.”
Foster said a big
difference for PRP from other jobs is their reactive role in
the Corps. Most military occupations are able to control the
situations they encounter by acting ahead of time to avoid
“At PRP, we're reactive,” said Foster.
“Once our job comes into play, there is nothing we can do to
change the outcome except provide the fallen with the
dignity and honor they deserve.”
associated with being a part of a PRP detachment instill a
tremendous sense of pride in its members.
this job because I felt it would be a great honor and
respect to take care of our fallen heroes,” said Donaldson.
At the end of the process, PRP escorts the
flag-draped casket from the emergency vehicle to the
aircraft waiting on the flight line. In the aircraft,
Marines render a final hand salute and march away as the
hero takes off for their final trip home.
dignity, reverence and respect with which PRP Marines care
for our fallen heroes is the greatest positive affect PRP
has on the Marine Corps mission in Afghanistan,” said
Phillips. “In doing so, we express to the family and the
nation that we mourn the loss and honor the sacrifice made
by our fallen heroes.”
By USMC Cpl. Michele Watson
1st Marine Logistics Group
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