Today let's take a look at the notification process. This is something I've seen done incorrectly a few different times. I didn't, for a long time, know how it's done either. The key is to ask. Ask people questions and do research. I happen to know somebody who is actually part of the notification process sometimes. So I peppered them with questions.
And then I did lots of research.
A notification is when military personnel go to tell the family (NOK=Next of Kin) of a dead soldier...that he/she died. There's usually two people who go to tell the family. There's a CNO (casualty notification officer) and a chaplain (military pastor). A chaplain never makes a notification but is there to offer support, prayer, and somebody to talk to.
It usually goes down like this:
A CNO and the on duty Chaplain receive information about a soldier who's died. They don their Class A's (dress uniforms), and go out to locate the NOKr of the deceased within approx. four hours.
This can take hours. Sometimes the pair will go to the address given for the NOK just to find out they haven't lived there for weeks, months. They sometimes have to hunt them down. (Then an extended notification time is allowed).
Never is a notification made through a phone call. If somebody calls you and tells you your soldier has died, it's a scam.
Sometimes a the notification pair has to go out at night and drive in the dark trying to find the NOK.
And when they get there, the NOK usually already knows something's happened. Especially when they see two soldiers in Class A's at their door.
The CNO will identify the people. Then identify self. If they're the NOK, the CNO will ask to come inside (don't deliver notifications outside if a private, indoor place is available).
Oftentimes, the NOK is already crying at this point.
The CNO will list the details of death (if known), including the rank of the soldier who died or was killed, the place and date and time of death. An example notification piece:
"On behalf of the Secretary of the Army I express deep regret that your Son Captain Robert Belinski was killed in action in Iraq on November first at three forty-two."
It will always be delivered in a way the family can understand. It will be dignified, not rushed, and professional.
Obviously each notification isn't going to be perfect. Sometimes the NOK reacts with violence. Sometimes they're in shock. There's no telling what will happen.
The chaplain asks if there's a family pastor they can call for the family, prays, talks it out...
After this process is over, contact information regarding the funeral arrangements/body pickups (for overseas soldiers) will be given to the NOK.
Side note: The group doesn't refer to the deceased soldier as 'the body'. Always by name.
Before leaving, the group should make sure the NOK is with somebody--a trusted neighbor, pastor, etc.
Okay, so recap:
1. Casualty Notification Officer and Chaplain receive information about the soldier.
2. Class A's (this is blue for Army)
3. Track down NOK (sometimes notifications have to be made when a NOK is on vacation...ie: Disney World) (notifications are not done at schools)
4. Deliver notification
5. Support/prayer/other contacts
6. Funeral arrangement contacts
7. Always remain professional even though it's awful
These are just the basics, but they're important. I'm sorry this is a little messy!
Another note: This is difficult not only for the NOK but for the CNO and Chaplain as well.
A great resource that lays out even more information:
Is there anything else you'd like to hear about regarding the military? I'd be happy to answer/write a post about the way to correctly portray something!