It’s a solemn process called the dignified transfer. The flag draped caskets of the fallen warriors are removed from a transport plane and moved to the mortuary here at Dover Air Force Base.
It’s an event that was observed Tuesday for the soldiers killed over the weekend when their Chinook helicopter was shot down. Thirty American soldiers were slain in the incident, many of them from the Navy SEALs.
The transfers are often open to the media with family approval. But since the bodies in this case weren’t all identified, the event was closed to coverage.
President Obama and his top Military commanders arrived via helicopter for the private ceremony after noon.
Also at Dover was Kimberly Vaughn, whose husband Aaron Vaughn was among the SEALS killed in the greatest single loss of U.S. lives since the war began.
“I'm just afraid I'm going to forget what he smells like, what he feels like, and I'm sorry,” she said. “I just miss him. There's just no other way to put it.”
The Pentagon has not officially released the names of the deceased but has confirmed that, in addition to the army’s flight crew, the list of deceased includes 22 members of the elite SEAL TEAM 6 – the same unit that killed Osama bin Laden. None of the SEALS killed in the crash participated in the bin Laden raid.
Family members have provided photos of many of the heroes, including Brian Bill – a Connecticut native who dreamed of becoming an astronaut.
“They are the best of the best,” said Michael Parry, Brian Bill’s stepfather. “We can never thank them enough for the sacrifice that they have made.”
Michael Strange, 25, had served in Iraq, Afghanistan and Africa. His father Charles Strange says he had just gotten engaged.
“He got deployed again in July. He said he'd be home for Thanksgiving,” he said. “He was a great kid, man he fought for this country.”