By James BrabenecMarch 1, 2018
FORT SILL, Okla., March 1, 2018 -- As a Delta Airlines jet taxied up to its parking space Feb. 14, at Will Rogers World Airport in Oklahoma City, it returned an honored Oklahoman home for his final rest.
Greg Davis, a public affairs specialist for the 72nd Air Base Wing at Tinker Air Force Base, was there to document the dignified return of Sgt. 1st Class Alfred Bensinger Jr. Assigned to D Company, 2nd Engineer Combat Battalion, Bensinger was captured during the Korean War and reported missing in action on Dec. 1, 1950.
"This was proof that the Department of Defense keeps its word -- that no man or woman is left behind," said Davis.
To honor Bensinger, a host gathered on the airport tarmac. This included the carry team from the 100th Brigade Support Battalion, a Department of Homeland Security honor guard, members of the Patriot Guard Riders and the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), as well as Delta Airlines and airport employees.
Davis said once the aircraft pulled into its parking place, and the engines were shut down, the cargo hold opened with Bensinger's casket the first thing out.
"From what I saw, most of the passengers on that flight waited and were watching from the windows above," he said.
The carry team then took the casket from the aircraft to the waiting hearse.
"Everyone saluted during the loading of the casket," said Davis. "It was a very somber ceremony for all involved.
Speaking on behalf of the members of VFW Post 382 in El Reno, Okla., Stacy Reddig, post commander, said it's important for the VFW to pay their respects to one of their own.
"Sergeant First Class Bensinger gave so much for our freedom -- it hits really close to the heart," he said. "This is a way for us to give back what he gave to us."
As the hearse pulled away, the Patriot Guard Riders along with Oklahoma City and Oklahoma Highway Patrol police officers on motorcycles, provided a full escort. "It was a very moving sight to see," said Davis.
From a duty standpoint, the honors paid to a fallen Soldiers was a homecoming of sorts for Davis, too. During his service years, he was stationed at Dover Air Force Base, Del., which is where the Charles C. Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs is at.
"One of my primary duties was to document the return of remains for military and other agency personnel if they were killed overseas. I've been to a lot of these dignified transfers, it's very emotional, especially when the family is there and someone was just recently killed," he said.
Davis added in addition to the carry teams and honor guard, ceremonies at the mortuary center often included senior leaders, sometimes at the highest levels to include the president of the United States.
In addition to his stateside duties, Davis was an Air Force combat photographer with combat tours in the Middle East as well as tours of Kosovo, Bosnia, and South Korea.
"It's important for me to continue to serve my country," he said. "Writing stories and taking these photos is important to myself, the command I work for, as well as the Department of Defense."
A U.S. Army recovery team comprised of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) personnel and North Korean People's Army soldiers gathered remains of 32 individuals in April 2005. These were flown to the DPAA facilities in Hawaii for analysis. Bensinger's remains were recently positively identified and returned for burial at Fort Sill National Cemetery.
Davis said events, such as this, are opportunities to "willing support" the larger Department of Defense mission.
"In this instance it was an Army POW/MIA return of remains, and although we support the Air Force directly at Tinker, we were happy to do this," he said.
Having witnessed so many of these somber ceremonies, Davis said the significance stays in his thoughts well after all disperse.
"Ceremonies such as this are very moving but also a reflection that no matter which service, what your rank, national origin, religion or whatever, everybody is treated with dignity, honor, and respect."