For 18 years the returning caskets with the bodies of American military personnel who have died in combat have not been photographed on arrival in the US. Dover Air Force Base, here in Delaware, just up the road from the village of Lewes by the Bay and the big water, is the port of entry for most of those who have been killed in combat overseas. In the last 18 years there have been more than 5,000 returned bodies, the large majority in the last five years. With one exception, an unidentified event, there have been no photographs. Now it is possible.
There is no joy in any of this, but at least the dignity of their return and the honor due them can be finally joined with the reality that the human cost of war is close and real and ought not be hid from sight.
Holy Week involves our walking with Jesus through those last days. Perhaps these returning coffins seen now for the first time in 18 years is a walk with those who have died.
The acknowledgement in sight and sound of the return carries meaning. It makes real the seemingly abstract numbers, the seemingly complex justifications for the exercise of political will in war, the unheard cry for the dead. Here is a video story on the return of the first soldier whose return has been acknowledged. In order to paste it in you have to deal with a commercial tag at the bottom of the screen, and a story about those who receive the fallen, but there it is. (Sigh).
But after all this time, their return home is known in real time, and in plain view.