With the support of the newsroom at Messenger Post Media and Gatehouse Media management. I’m taking a two-month leave of absence.
In addition to being a gainfully employed journalist, I also serve in the Air Force Reserve as a broadcast journalist, assigned to the 914th Air Refueling Wing in Niagara Falls.
In front of me is what I anticipate as the greatest and most humbling assignment of my life. I’ve been selected to augment the mortuary mission at Dover Air Force Base for Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations.
As reservists and citizen airmen, we back up active-duty servicemen across the board in all occupations as they rotate in and out. It’s our job as a citizen airman.
My understanding of my assignment is that I will be documenting dignified transfers for families who elect media coverage of their loved ones' return and will put it on a DVD for them.
After serving three years in the Army followed by a 14-year break in service to focus on my civilian career — which took me into Iraq in 2005 as a New York Post freelancer — I felt compelled to serve again and rejoined in 2013. My DNA has me wired to be more of a participant then an observer.
As a civilian journalist I have photographed graveside services of the fallen with the families' permission. Simply put, it is heavy. So is this assignment. I feel well prepared, but you never really know how it’s going to go until you get there.
This assignment is in no way about me, nor is this article. This assignment is about family and support. This article is about saying "thank you" to all those around me for allowing me to fulfill my duties and support the fallen and their families.
In the big picture, it’s two measly months then back at it with the Daily Messenger. However, I anticipate that these two months will have a profound impact on the rest of my life. Two months of helping Gold Star families. Two months to be a part of a team that is tasked with a daunting assignment: taking care of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
All of this pales in comparison to those deployed and serving under extreme circumstances. Heroes are out there, heroes are among us. My fortune allows me not only to work alongside them but to tell their stories as well.
I’ve always felt blessed to be wired the way I am. Maniac work ethic, compelled and inspired to tell the story of our community. Compelled to tell the story of our magnificent nation’s military.
In a bizarre way it’s all led me to this moment in life, these two months in front of me.
I’d be grateful just to dust the lobby. Ideally, I never take the camera out of the bag. Reality is that I will.
Josh Williams is a reporter and online editor for Messenger Post Media.