12:59am

Fri May 23, 2014
StoryCorps

'Someone Had To Do It': Airman Gives Fallen Soldiers A Final Salute

Originally published on Fri May 30, 2014 3:54 pm

StoryCorps' Military Voices Initiative records stories from members of the U.S. military who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.

During her back-to-back deployments to Iraq for the U.S. Air Force, then-Senior Airman MaCherie Dunbar volunteered to do "patriot detail" — a ceremony for soldiers, airmen, Marines or sailors killed in action.

"You line up in two columns, up to the back of a C-130. And you give them final salute as they're loaded onto the plane. Not that many people showed up to do it," Dunbar told her girlfriend, Barb Maglaqui, on a visit to StoryCorps in Fairbanks, Alaska.

"The first time I volunteered for one, I didn't really know what it was," she says. "I thought maybe it was going to be just one or two coffins. But they just kept coming, one after the other, and then another, and then another."

It was one of the hardest things she had to do while overseas, says Dunbar, who has been struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder.

"I don't know how many I sent home. But someone had to do it. Someone had to send them home," she says.

"So I volunteered almost every time they needed people after that. Even if I'd just come off of a 14-hour shift. But then we'd just move on to the next day. And it was just business as usual."

"Do you feel guilty about that?" Maglaqui asks Dunbar.

"I guess somewhere deep down I do," says Dunbar. "Because I made it back."

Audio produced for Morning Edition by Katie Simon.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And on this Friday morning, it is time for StoryCorps. As we head into the Memorial Day weekend, we will hear from an Air Force reservist who took part in StoryCorp's Military Voices Initiative. This project is collecting interviews from post-9/11 service members and their families. MaCherie Dunbar was stationed in Balad, Iraq in 2007 and here she remembers one of the hardest things she had to do while overseas.

MACHERIE DUNBAR: I did two back to back deployments and I used to do patriot details, which is when a soldier is killed in action you line up in two columns, up to the back of a C-130. And you give them final salute as they're loaded onto the plane. Not that many people showed up to do it.

The first time I volunteered for one, I didn't really know what it was. I thought maybe it was just going to be one or two coffins. But they just kept coming, one after the other, and then another, and then another. I don't know how many I sent home. But someone had to do it. Someone had to send them home. So I volunteered almost every time they needed people after that.

Even if I'd just come off of a 14-hour shift. But then we'd just move on to the next day and it was just business as usual.

BARB MAGLAQUI: Do you feel guilty about that?

DUNBAR: I guess somewhere deep down I do because I made it back.

INSKEEP: That's MaCherie Dunbar on her duties in Iraq. She was speaking with her girlfriend, Barb Maglaqui, who is an active duty Air National Guard medic. MaCherie's hoping to retire from the Air Force this year due to a struggle with PTSD. Their conversation was recorded in Fairbanks, Alaska as part of the StoryCorps Military Voices Initiative.

It'll be archived at the Library of Congress. And as always, you can hear more StoryCorps interviews with military families on our podcast and tomorrow on WEEKEND EDITION. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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