I just read "And Then I Cried," by Justin Jordan, and thought, Who knew? Who knew that there is trauma involved in taking care of our military dead (or any dead, for that matter), trauma that, over time, runs deep? By the time you see a body in a casket that looks like it is simply asleep, a lot of work has been done behind the scenes to give that illusion -- work that the average person will never see. Justin Jordan pulls back the veil for us in this book, giving us a glimpse into the frightening unknown.
As a 24-year military wife, I knew about the Services Squadron in the Air Force, but always assumed the people assigned to it were the desk clerks at the base billeting office and the base gym. I did not know that Services is a catch-all squadron that provides cooks as well as clerks, and I certainly would never have thought it provided mortuary services for those fallen in battle or who die in accidents while on active duty. I got an education with this book.
Although I was warned that I would cry when I read it, I did not; I was too caught up in the gruesome horrors it showed, which were graphically detailed. I can easily see why the author ended up with PTSD after working in mortuary for a long time. Any normal person would.
As I read about Sergeant Jordan went about his duties, I was touched at how he couldn't help but inject his personal feelings with his professionalism as he did his job, well done and with love, as well as pride.
Some other things that stood out to me were: the angel-like mortician who is a constant player in this story, and who could handle anything that came her way; the reverence with which the military handles the remains of its dead; and the reluctance of Sergeant Jordan to lay down his duties because he knew somebody else would have to take them up in his place and he didn't want that burden to fall on anybody else.
The deaths that seemed to have affected Sergeant Jordan the most were the suicides, which left him angry because they selfishly caused so much grief.
Of special note to me was how Sergeant Jordan began to have supernatural experiences -- seeing an apparition and having dreams before certain events that, incredibly, came true.
Throughout the book, you will be amazed at one of the central figures -- the female civilian mortician with whom Sgt. Jordan worked -- nothing fazed her.
Everybody should buy and read this book. It will help a veteran. It will acquaint you with the human toll of war as you read about how Sergeant Jordan cared for the bodies of the fallen. It will make you realize that everybody who serves this country is deserving of the utmost respect, since each one does his or her duty, and has his or her place. They are all needed to keep our beloved military operating smoothly.
Surprisingly, after reading "And Then I Cried," I didn't cry; the book left me too numb. Instead, I thought.....I thought about what I had read and what I had learned: that all are mortal, all will die -- the young as well as the old -- and that our lives can be snuffed out at any time, with no warning.
I am amazed at the strength of this young author. Amazed that he was able to do what he did so well and for so long, and amazed that he had the courage to seek help for his suffering when it was needed. He makes me proud to be a part of a military family. I gave the book five stars.