Marines Drop Dress Blues for Death Notifications
A Matter Of Image – Wearing of dress blues barred on casualty notification calls (Marine Corps Times, Feb. 28, p. 08)
Casualty assistance officers will no longer wear the dress blue uniform when notifying families of a MarineÃ¢€™s death under a recent change to Corps policy. Marines making death notifications instead will now wear the service Ã¢€˜AÃ¢€™ uniform, a move intended to curb what officials said was a growing negative view of Marines wearing the dress uniform while performing such grim duty.
The change, included in a Feb. 9 Corpswide message outlining adjustments to the serviceÃ¢€™s casualty procedures, has already divided many Marines and spouses. Some are saying the change is not significant, while others believe the Corps is choosing image over the sanctity of dress blues, the most iconic of Marine uniforms. Ã¢€œA negative connotation has been attached to Marines in the dress blue uniform because of death notifications,Ã¢€ according to the message, MarAdmin 057/05. Ã¢€œThis is contrary to the pride and tradition of the dress blue uniform.Ã¢€ Dress blues will continue to be worn for ceremonial events during the casualty assistance process, including burial, the message states.
The change infuriated one spouse. If her husband was killed, she said, she would be extremely upset to receive notice from someone who wasnÃ¢€™t in his finest. Ã¢€œI would be completely, totally offended,Ã¢€ said the spouse, who asked that she not be named. Putting casualty assistance officers in service alphas minimizes the MarineÃ¢€™s sacrifice and makes death notification an Ã¢€œeveryday event,Ã¢€ she said. Ã¢€œThat means that my husband is not worth as much as the service members who died two years ago,Ã¢€ she said.
Marine Corps officials declined to discuss the matter in detail but issued a statement through a spokesman saying the change was in response to concerns from casualty assistance officers and others. Ã¢€œOver the last year, the casualty assistance office had received feedback from CACOs and others in the fleet revealing that when spouses or the public see Marines in the dress blue uniform, they have begun to believe the Marines are there to deliver tragic news,Ã¢€ Bryan Driver, a spokesman for Marine Corps Community Services at Quantico, Va., said in a written statement.
There’s no winning with an issue like this. My gut tells me the Corps is right on this one: It makes no sense to create a panic on base every time Dress Blues are seen. The Service uniform is worn with sufficient regularity that such an association is unlikely.
The father of an infantry lance corporal deployed to Iraq said he believes the service alphas are most appropriate for death notification, because he associates dress blues with festive occasions. Ã¢€œMy own opinion was, I was terrified of seeing an officer in dress blues,Ã¢€ Dennis Anderson, of Palmdale, Calif., said via e-mail. Ã¢€œThere is terror in looking at that splendid blue and red uniform and this signifying that awful fact that you will never see your child again. The memory of that blue uniform, indelible.Ã¢€
Several participants in an online forum for military spouses, www.cinchouse.com, posted comments on the matter Feb. 17. One said she equated a Marine making a death notification in service alphas to a funeral director showing up in a sweat suit. Ã¢€œJust seems appropriate to go the extra distance when delivering such grave news,Ã¢€ she wrote. Ã¢€œI dunno, maybe I expect too much.Ã¢€
Service alphas are quite dressy, hardly akin to a sweat suit. The uniforms in question:
Still, this is obviously an emotional issue. People unaffiliated with the military have trouble understanding the strong feelings people have about such things. See, for example, the outcry over the Army’s switch to the black beret.