Imagine you have been waiting for your loved one to call you from Afghanistan or you are counting the days until they come home, instead as you log on to Facebook, you find a message from someone in their unit telling you that person, who you love so much, is dead. No warning, no preparation, and no one in the room to help you process the tragic news.
Casualty Notification Officers are trained to deliver personal notification with compassion and understanding. These officers stay with the family through the entire process, helping with the funeral arrangements, answering any question they have about insurance, or supplying any additional information the family needs.
Many people have given their lives for our country and the notification process demonstrates respect for the family, and for their loved one’s memory. Because the notifications are done in person it can take up to 24-hours to inform the family after the soldier’s death.
Officers are instructed not to divulge any information about the service member’s death until that notification takes place. Unfortunately, families are finding out about their loved one’s death on Facebook before the CNO’s can inform them. This is causing unnecessary anxiety and additional pain. Some of these cases have been publicized. In each case, the family did not understand why someone thought this was an appropriate way to share that a loved one had died.
In early April Staff Sgt. Christopher Brown was killed by a bomb in Afghanistan. Soon after, a member of his platoon contacted his pregnant wife on Facebook sending her an urgent message to call. She had her two children standing right in front of her when the woman informed her of his death over the phone. This was just hours before the soldiers arrived at their house to properly notify her.
Sgt. Joshua Born was shot and killed in Afghanistan during a riot on base. Before the notification team could get to his wife, she received a text message from another spouse informing her of Joshua’s death. Megan Born was distraught and extremely concerned, so she called Fort Stewart asking questions. Within a few hours an officer from the base called her back and chose to notify her over the phone to minimize her anxiety, instead of waiting for the team to arrive. The officer was very compassionate and upset because he had hoped she wouldn’t have been notified through a text message.
The military’s notification process is set up to honor the fallen soldier’s memory and help their families after they are gone. Newer technology has hindered some individual’s self control. People want to be the first to post newsworthy information online, not caring who it effects or hurts. This is becoming an enormous issue for the military. Along with the U.S. Army, the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Marines are also having issues with people posting about the deaths of soldiers on Facebook.
The military has asked people to show discretion and stop posting such information online, but the posting continues. It is devastating to get the news from soldiers standing outside your door, but to read it on a Facebook post is intolerable. These events have people questioning whether the military needs to update their notification process based on growing technology, but maybe it should be the responsibility of the people using technology to show discretion.
“Not only must the message be correctly delivered, but the messenger himself must be such as to recommend it to acceptance”-Joseph Barber Lightfoot