JOINT BASE MCGUIRE-DIX-LAKEHURST, N.J. -- U.S. Army Reserve Staff Sgt. Alex Ushomirsky wasn't born in the United States, but he performs one of the most important duties any American can -- honoring fallen service members.
Ushomirsky came to the United States in 1997. Born in Russia and having lived in the Ukraine, Ushomirsky's father and grandfather both served in the Russian army. His family lineage can be traced back to a Ukrainian city that spells out the first part of his last name. Ushomir is about 120 miles west of the capital of Kiev.
"My granddad was a lieutenant colonel and my dad was a major," said Ushomirsky.
Ushomirsky has served in the U.S. Army Reserve for 14 of the 20 years he has been in the U.S. He's currently a paralegal, working in casualty operations for the U.S. Army Reserve's 99th Regional Support Command at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey.
"In 2006, when I needed a new position, my unit administrator told me to talk to this guy, he's involved with the military funeral honors program, see what you can do," said Ushmorisky, who has done two of his five mobilizations with casualty operations.
"What I enjoy is that we provide a service to family members; it's an honorable thing to do. We don't deal with the family directly from this office, but you have to care because everything is short notice. Even if it's two in the morning and the phone rings, when someone dies, you have to move."
Ushmorisky, who moved into the office at the 99th about a year ago, still remembers his first funeral.
"My first funeral, when I had to present the flag, I was trained, I knew what I had to do, I knew the speech I had to give but then I looked into his eyes, my mind went blank. It was so emotional," he said.
The 99th RSC supports the casualty mission by providing support and assistance to families of Soldiers and Department of Army civilians reported as a casualty (deceased, missing, or whereabouts unknown). Casualty Operations personnel support the mission by providing casualty notification and assistance, casualty escort, retrieval and return of personal effects, and appropriate reporting to the Department of the Army. The 99th provides support throughout its 13-state region.
Army Reserve Soldier reflects on own heritage while comforting families of the fallen