*This article discusses what happens if your soldier is KIA. It is not an easy subject to write about or read. You have been warned.*
Before your soldier deployed, he completed paperwork that listed who he wanted to be notified in the event that he was injured or killed during deployment. Many times, this also includes directions of how to get to that home as well as who he wants to be there with the family member during notification. This may also be done at the pre-deployment briefing.
If Your Soldier is Injured
Many times, they will do everything possible to let the soldier notify you of his injury via a phone call. If for some reason he is unable to make this notification himself, someone from the unit will call you. If the injury is very serious, it is possible they will send someone to tell you in person. Check with your unit to find out what the protocol is for notification of injuries.
If your soldier has to leave his current location for medical treatment, he will most likely be transported to Germany. Whether or not you are able to go depends on the seriousness of the injury and how long he will be in Germany. Some will get the treatment they need and return to their unit. Others may receive treatment and return to the states. If they expect he will be transported to the states, the Army will generally not arrange travel for the family. If he will be in Germany for an extended period of time, his unit may work with you to secure travel arrangements to see him. Again, this is a case by case basis.
If Your Soldier is Killed in Action
Notification of your soldier’s death will ALWAYS be made in person. These types of notifications will not be made over the telephone. They typically also will cut off communication from overseas until the notification can be made to ensure the family does not find out through other means.
Typically, someone from the unit along with a CAO (Casualty Assistance Officer) will go to the home of the primary and secondary next of kin to make the notification. They do not notify in the middle of the night. When they arrive, they will be in uniform. If you or your soldier has indicated that you want specific people to be there for the notification, those people may be there as well though they will generally not be at the door for the notification.
CAOs are trained to deal with a wide variety of situations. As you can imagine, people will react in different ways to receiving this news. The CAO is assigned to your family and will be there for you for months after your soldier’s death. They will physically be there with you to assist in funeral arrangements, transportation to Dover if you want to be there when the casket arrives, etc. They will also explain all benefits and what you can expect from the process. The CAO is basically a personal information officer during this time with answers to all questions.
I pray that you will never need this information. The most important thing to take from this article is that notifications of death are ALWAYS made in person. No one will ever call you with that news. In 99.99% of the cases, you will be notified before anyone else in the area (including the media) is made aware of what happened. If you have additional questions about notifications, check with your family readiness group (FRG).