Story by Spc Chafelmer Kroll
Defense Department Support to FAMA COVID-19
CITY, New York-The 54th Quartermaster Company is a Mortuary Affairs unit based
out of Fort Lee, Va. They are one of two active duty Mortuary Affairs units in
the United States Military.
In a deployment setting, they have the privilege of bringing our nation’s fallen soldiers home. In today’s pandemic, they help to honor fellow Americans by respectfully processing the remains of those who have passed as a result of COVID-19.
It’s not everyday you find a dual military couple in the same unit, let alone working together on a mission like this. Sgt. George Wainwright and Pfc Parker Wainwright of the 54th Quartermaster Company are doing just that.
Newlywed couple of eight months, Sgt. George Wainwright and Pfc Parker Wainwright met while working together on a task at the company. According to Pfc Wainwright, “We bonded over a song and how much we had in common; the rest was history.”
As a dual military couple, they have encountered a few challenges that many may not necessarily understand as they work in close proximity assigned to the same unit. One of those in particular is how they communicate with one another at home versus at work.
“At home I can say, ‘Hey babe will you help me with this.’ However, at work I have to respect the rank and courtesies. I try to keep it separate and professional. I only go to him if it is something I am required to do for the job”, said Pfc Wainwright.
Staff Sgt. kwame Williams also of 54th Quarter Master Company who serves as Sgt. Wainwright’s and Pfc Wainwright’s Platoon Sergeant for 2nd Platoon describes Sgt. Wainwright as “motivated, dedicated and ready to work. Pfc Wainwright has a good work ethic, as well; she is the armor for our company. Just a few months ago, she passed her inspection with 100%.” He later stated that, “they come in everyday ready to work knowing all their tasks and what is expected of them.”
Originally Sgt. Wainwright wasn’t identified to be a part of the forward operations in support of the Department of Defense’s response to COVID-19. He received the news of his soon departure on the night of his wife’s birthday.
“It was on my birthday, so I really appreciated the Army on that one. It was a really great birthday present; way to go Army (jokingly)!” exclaimed Pfc Wainwright.
A few days later Pfc Wainwright followed suite of her husband as she was informed of with her own departure for New York. “I was kind of excited to come because I have never been to New York before, but the timing of when I had to leave made me a little agitated (leaving on his wife’s birthday) at first, “according to Sgt. Wainwright. However, when he learned of the news his wife would be joining him, “… it made me excited to know that she would be here with me.”
As Mortuary Affair Specialists, they also receive additional training in understanding mentally and emotionally what to expect in a specialty of this nature. During their Advance Individual Training, they receive additional training to gauge if this line of work will be best suited for them.
“We go through rotations at the morgue to see what we can handle. We also have additional training in search and recovery process”, according to Pfc Wainwright. “There is a whole system (training) that we have engrained in us that we know like the back of our hands. We are just waiting for the call to do it.”
“Going off of what she said, we have these systems (trainings) and sometimes it gets hard, but we just power through it because we know it’s worth it,” said Sgt. Wainwright
Like many other Mortuary Affairs Specialist, they are honored to be able to serve the American people in this capacity in the fight against COVID-19.
“To be apart of a mission like this, I feel honored and (have) respect for this job. There is a lot to do and a lot to see, but we are going to respect what the people want and what the people need”, according to Pfc Wainwright. “At the end of the day, people who haven’t been as lucky and have passed in this pandemic, we are handling those people with the respect and dignity they deserve.”