Air Force performs 'emotional' duty bringing fallen service members home

Inside the giant Charleston-based C-17 transport plane rode a precious cargo — the remains of a fallen U.S. service member.

On the flight, Tech Sgt. Erin Manley made sure everything inside the plane was tidied up.

She saw to it that the U.S. flag that draped the coffin was straight. She double–checked the strapping that held the coffin in place to make sure it was secure.

"You just want to be as respectful as possible," Manley said.

For years, fallen U.S. service members have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan on C–17s from Charleston Air Force Base. But, until Wednesday, the Air Force's role in that solemn mission had been seldom reported.

That changed when relatives of Army Spc. Israel Candelaria Mejias approved media coverage of their fallen soldier's arrival at Dover Air Force Base, Del.

The transfer of Mejias' remains was just the second to be covered by the media since Defense Secretary Robert Gates lifted an 18–year–old ban on coverage of the return of fallen soldiers' bodies.

To read the complete article, visit