Local News

Fort Bragg Soldiers Charged With Hardest Job Imaginable

Posted March 16, 2007
Updated March 17, 2007

Map Marker  Find News Near Me

— More than 3,200 U.S. troops have died in Iraq in the past four years. After each loss, two soldiers in dress uniform, known as a casualty notification team, are charged with delivering the news to a husband, wife, mother or father left behind.

"It's never easy," says Chaplain Larry McCarty, who accompanies other soldiers to tell military families their loved one has been killed. "It's always a gut-wrenching terrible time."

Since the war on terror began, 119 Fort Bragg soldiers have been killed in Iraq and 30 in Afghanistan. Fort Bragg casualty teams have had to notify 56 local families of their loss.

"You have a sinking feeling in your stomach because you know you are about to be part of someone's worst nightmare," McCarty said.

Soldiers tasked with the job say it is also a nightmare for them.

"You knock on the door and you recite that little phrase, 'On behalf of the Secretary of the Army, we regret to inform you …,'" said 1st Sgt. Edward Weihl, an engineer who has been the bearer of bad news three times. "At that point right there, it's hard."

Every family member reacts differently. Some collapse. Some scream and cry. Others get angry.

But the notification team has backup. Once its job is done, soldiers like Capt. Annette Garrett step in to help the family cope.

"I'm the person that they call sometimes when they want to know more and also when they want to cry," Garrett said.

Casualty assistance officers spend 45 days with the family helping with the funeral, insurance and relocation.

"It drains you emotionally because, once you become part of the family, you feel the pain. You know the loss," Garrett said. "You may not have met the soldier, but you know the loss."

But as hard as is, they said they know their job is a necessary one. Without them, families would have no one to turn to at the moment they need help the most, and that is what keeps them going.

"It's not so much what you say to them but that you're there. You hold them, cry with them and pray with them. They never forget that," McCarty said.

"It's an honor to do it," Weihl said.


Please with your WRAL.com account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • nursevb8 Mar 26, 2007

    I praise these men who do this job. As a nurse, I have never had to do this heart breaking job. To do this so often doesn't harden you, it makes you more empathetic.

  • meri_0426 Mar 19, 2007

    My boyfriend's son is finishing up his Marine Basic training, and we know it's only a matter of time before he is deployed to Iraq. God Bless the troops who go; their families who have to somehow keep the wheels on the axle while their loved ones are in such a dangerous place, and those who have to bring the worst of news to those families. May the US get ALL our troops home quickly and safely so this particular job becomes unnecessary.

  • givitanam Mar 19, 2007

    Thank you to all the men and women who are serving in the military. I commend you and I admire you. And I'm so very proud of you all.

  • Mrs. Fabulous Mar 19, 2007

    The US Military are my heros! My hat goes off for you.

  • investagator7 Mar 18, 2007

    it is never hard to do a thing like this my brother is in fort brag and just say we want the war to end so that we can stop living in fear . i worry about him all the time but there is nothing that i can do but sit and wait for that stupid mand bush to say it is all over.

  • BOHICA Mar 17, 2007

    Well before now I just knew that I was thankful for what the Men and Women do in the Military. I have always been so thankful for them putting their lives on the line each and every day to protect us as a nation. Now that my sister is going to be married soon to someone that is in the service my heart is sadden to know that he is too soon to be leaving for Iraq. This is for his second tour. And the thought of wondering is he going to be safe and will he return so that we aren't faced with the knock on the door from those that have the job of telling the family. I have so much respect for you and the job you do. I'm sure it is a very hard and stressful job at that. So now all we can do is pray that God will keep him save as he is over there and bring him back to us safe and sound. For those that are still there and that will be going soon may God comfort you and your families as well. And again Thanks for the job you all do and the lives that you have to live from day to day.

  • Tarheeljunior Mar 17, 2007

    As heartless as the telegram was, it was used in a day when the wars we fought killed soldiers is mass quantities. In the World Wars and Vietnam we lost men by the hundreds, not one or two at a time. In those days, it was difficult to notify all of the affected families in any other timely manner. I am glad that our service, and the nature of the war means that there can be more compassion for the families that are victims of this war. God bless our troops and their families.

  • GWALLY Mar 17, 2007

    The US soldier has to be the most under paid government employee!!! God Bless each and every one of you for your service to us all!!!!

  • ttc248 Mar 17, 2007

    God Bless our soldiers. You put your life on the line continuously so that we can enjoy our freedoms. Thank you seems so inadequate, but please know we love each of you and you are indeed appreciated.

  • diwanicki Mar 17, 2007

    I don't know that I would be able to do this job. God bless you for doing it. Thank you all for your service. To MEdwa17322, Thank you for your service as well. Treet007, you are right, that was heartless. I would rather someone come in person and tell me than to get a telegram.