In their Honor!

The following article, pictures and captions are from the Rocky Mountain News. These pictures and captions deeply moved me to tears. Sometimes I get so consumed with my own life and I think it’s important to put our own sufferings into perspective of what others are going through, this aids us in compassion and virtue. These pictures helped me do that. I took a step back and realized all that I am blessed with, instead of how much further I need to go. I thanked God for the men and women in uniform. Especially those who have given their lives for our freedom. I thanked God for my brother James, who is a Captain in the Marines who is safe in the states. I thanked God for a friend who just returned from Afghanistan, for his safe return and for Mary’s intercession for his men.

I couldn’t even begin to fathom the pain and suffering of the heroic men and women in the pictures below who have lost a loved one. My heart goes out to them in the most humanly profound way possible. They are in my heart and prayers forever. I think it is important for civilians to see these photos and read the captions because often times we forget that there is a war going on and that men and women are dying for our freedom. Please hold these families in your hearts and prayers today and always.

For a year, the Rocky Mountain News has followed Maj. Steve Beck as he takes on the most difficult duty of his career: casualty notification. As Beck and his comrades at Buckley Air Force Base keep constant watch over the caskets of the men they never knew, the Marines also comfort the families of the fallen, and choke back tears of their own.

It’s all part of a tradition that started in 1775: Never leave a Marine behind.

After the knock on the door, the story has only begun. Rocky Mountain News reporter Jim Sheeler and photographer Todd Heisler spent a year with the Marines stationed at Aurora’s Buckley Air Force Base who have found themselves called upon to notify families of the deaths of their sons in Iraq. In each case in this story, the families agreed to let Sheeler and Heisler chronicle their loss and grief. They wanted people to know their sons, the men and women who brought them home, and the bond of traditions more than 200 years old that unite them.

Though readers are led through the story by the white-gloved hand of Maj. Steve Beck, he remains a reluctant hero. He is, he insists, only a small part of the massive mosaic that is the Marine Corps. All photos © Todd Heisler/Rocky Mountain News. All rights reserved.

All photos © Todd Heisler/Rocky Mountain News. All rights reserved.
Marine Major Steve Beck prepares for the final inspection of 2nd Lt. James J. Cathey’s body, only days after notifying Cathey’s wife of the Marine’s death in Iraq. The knock at the door begins a ritual steeped in tradition more than two centuries old; a tradition based on the same tenet: “Never leave a Marine behind.”

All photos © Todd Heisler/Rocky Mountain News. All rights reserved.
Major Steve Beck and another Marine approach the family home of 2nd Lt. James Cathey, preparing to escort the Catheys to the airport to receive their son’s body. Five days earlier, the shadows of Casualty Assistance Call Officers followed the same path, carrying the news no military family ever wants to hear. The gold star flag in the window signifies the death of a loved one overseas.

All photos © Todd Heisler/Rocky Mountain News. All rights reserved.
When 2nd Lt. James Cathey’s body arrived at the Reno Airport, Marines climbed into the cargo hold of the plane and draped the flag over his casket as passengers watched the family gather on the tarmac. During the arrival of another Marine’s casket last year at Denver International Airport, Major Steve Beck described the scene as one of the most powerful in the process: “See the people in the windows? They’ll sit right there in the plane, watching those Marines. You gotta wonder what’s going through their minds, knowing that they’re on the plane that brought him home,” he said. “They’re going to remember being on that plane for the rest of their lives. They’re going to remember bringing that Marine home. And they should.

All photos © Todd Heisler/Rocky Mountain News. All rights reserved.
At the first sight of her husband’s flag-draped casket, Katherine Cathey broke into uncontrollable sobs, finding support in the arms of Major Steve Beck. When Beck first knocked on her door in Brighton to notify her of her husband’s death, she glared at him, cursed him, and refused to speak to him for more than an hour. Over the next several days, he helped guide her through the grief. By the time they reached the tarmac, she wouldn’t let go.

All photos © Todd Heisler/Rocky Mountain News. All rights reserved.
Minutes after her husband’s casket arrived at the Reno airport, Katherine Cathey fell onto the flag. When 2nd Lt. James Cathey left for Iraq, he wrote a letter to Katherine that read, in part, “there are no words to describe how much I love you, and will miss you. I will also promise you one thing: I will be home. I have a wife and a new baby to take care of, and you guys are my world.”

All photos © Todd Heisler/Rocky Mountain News. All rights reserved. Members of the Marine Air Control Squadron 23 stationed at Buckley Air Force Base escort the casket of Marine Lance Corporal Evenor Herrera to a gravesite in Eagle. Since the beginning of the war, Marines from Buckley have overseen funerals for 16 active duty Marines; 12 died in Iraq, four died in traffic accidents.

All photos © Todd Heisler/Rocky Mountain News. All rights reserved.
Katherine Cathey pressed her pregnant belly to her husband’s casket, moaning softly. The baby, due Jan. 1, will be named James Jeffrey Cathey Jr.

All photos © Todd Heisler/Rocky Mountain News. All rights reserved.
The night before the burial of her husband’s body, Katherine Cathey refused to leave the casket, asking to sleep next to his body for the last time. The Marines made a bed for her, tucking in the sheets below the flag. Before she fell asleep, she opened her laptop computer and played songs that reminded her of “Cat,” and one of the Marines asked if she wanted them to continue standing watch as she slept. “I think it would be kind of nice if you kept doing it,” she said. “I think that’s what he would have wanted.”

All photos © Todd Heisler/Rocky Mountain News. All rights reserved.
As his son’s funeral neared, Jeff Cathey’s tears rarely stopped. He often found comfort in the men who shared his son’s uniform. “Someone asked me what I learned from my son,” he said. “He taught me you need more than one friend.”

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