The concept of life after death can vary from person to person. As the Luke Air Force Base mortuary officer, this concept has a new meaning for me. One of my principle responsibilities is to take care of the people who will care for you and your loved ones if you were to die while on active duty.
Whether you are a first-term Airman or the wing commander, you can’t escape the fact that military service is filled with risks. This assertion became ever apparent to me during this tour, having had the opportunity to work 19 mortuary cases since Aug. 1, 2011.
During these cases, the common denominator was that all the families who lost loved ones had to make decisions on funeral arrangements and honors for the fallen family member. To ensure your wishes are carried out promptly and in a timely manner, there are four things you can do now.
The first is to determine who you would like to receive your monetary benefits and entitlements, which include the Servicemen’s Group Life Insurance, your unpaid pay and allowances and death gratuity. All these benefits are payable by percentages to whomever you wish to be the beneficiary.
Secondly, you need to think about who you want to handle funeral arrangements. This individual is known as the person authorized to direct disposition or PADD. The PADD makes decisions on whether you are cremated or interred and the location of your interment site, whether this will be a government or civilian cemetery.
The third thing that needs to happen is to inform your loved ones of your wishes. Be sure you articulate to them who will receive monetary benefits. Furthermore, go over funeral arrangement wishes with family members and the person you will designate as your PADD. You will need to decide whether you want to be cremated or buried. If buried, do you want your body placed in a military or civilian cemetery? In addition, your PADD will have to decide if full military honors will be conducted or not. It is important your wishes be communicated early to your family members and your PADD because these details are not outlined in the Virtual Military Personnel Flight.
Finally, it’s imperative you make your wishes a matter of record. The best way to do this is through the Record of Emergency Data located in the vMPF through the Air Force Portal. Via this application, you can identify emergency contact information (next-of-Kin) and your PADD. This document cannot be changed by any other person except you.
After initial completion, you must ensure you keep this record as current as possible and continually update as appropriate (marriages, birth of children, change of wishes, etc.).
For more information on beneficiaries of SGLI, death gratuity, or unpaid pay and allowances, call Glinda Moore, Luke Air Force Base casualty assistance representative, at (623) 606-3019.
For more information about funeral arrangements and entitlements, call Staff Sgt. Aaron Anstrom at (623) 856-3771.