Volunteers Serving the Families of the Fallen

Assisting the Family of a Fallen Service Member as they traverse Washington Dulles International Airport is the exclusive responsibility of USO Dulles Lounge volunteers. It is a responsibility that the volunteers accomplish with dignity, honor, slight trepidation and compassion. Each assist is unique. For Bill DeCicco, the experience was inspiring.

Bill’s assignment was to meet the parents of a fallen service member outside the United Airlines ticket counter and assist them through the check-in process, thru the TSA Security Checkpoint and onto their departure gate for their flight home. Their daughter, active duty Coast Guard, had died in a motorcycle accident in Washington, D.C. Clad in his red USO Dulles polo shirt, holding a name placard in one hand and two baggies of snacks for the couple in the other, Bill became anxious when the couple was not at the designated meeting point.

After a longer than expected wait, Bill noticed a man and woman walking briskly toward him. They had been dropped off at the opposite end of the terminal, and they were scrambling to find him, following their meeting that afternoon in Washington, D.C. with the Commandant of the Coast Guard. Bill, immediately taken aback when, without any tears or other visible sign of grief whatsoever, the father gave him a very strong handshake, looked him in the eye, and thanked him for all that the USO does for our service members and their families. He could not have been more gracious and appreciative. The mother was equally cordial and genuine. The strength of character they displayed in a time of deep grief and sorrow stunned Bill because it was so unexpected.

As the couple had their boarding passes and no luggage to check, Bill escorted them thru the Security Checkpoint, and onto the Mobile Lounge to the D Terminal. Once at the departure gate, the couple chatted about what a wonderful person their daughter was and how proud they were of her accomplishments, including her service as the Commanding Officer of a Coast Guard cutter. They also expressed their appreciation for the USO provided assistance.

Assisting a family of a fallen service member can take an emotional toll on the USO volunteer. For Bill, this couple left an indelible impression on him as an example of strength in a time of adversity.

To read last week’s installment, visit usometro.org/FamiliesOfTheFallen.

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