The Notifiers

October 22, 2007
by findingDulcinea Staff
Known for work that can be just as emotionally taxing as those on the front lines, some long-unsung heroes of the military are now being heralded around the Web.

This summer, the BBC recounted the difficult assignment of one marine, highlighting an area of military service that can be as emotionally taxing as warfare. Chad Bilyeu was assigned the task of delivering news to a Nashville, Tennessee couple, Tammy and Steven Delle, that their son had died in combat. Aired on television and now on the BBC’s Web site, this brief, moving story provides a closer view of the Marine Corps’ casualty information and casualty assistance officers. Marred by accounts of inconsistency in the officers’ approaches, the responsibilities recently became more official and more structured. As a consequence, families like the Delles received help beyond simple notification from Staff Sergeant Bilyeu.
Instead, Bilyeu became a friend, almost a second son, and a person who shared in the couple’s grief. Bilyeu displays a meticulous sensitivity when performing his job. Where did he learn this unique brand of compassion? As the BBC observed, the U.S. military has a training program for CAOs. Michelle Spark, of the Casualty and Memorial Affairs Operation Center, speaking to a classroom of trainees, said, "There is more to being a good casualty assistance officer than the paperwork—take care of their hearts."

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