By Eric Dehm
You can go an entire military career without meeting a mortuary NCO and there’s a pretty good reason for that.
“You never run into us because everything we do is kept very austere, very under the radar,” former Air Force Mortuary NCO Justin Jordan said during an appearance on The Morning Briefing. “We do not want to draw attention to the duties that we are doing, especially for those that are still living, because it’s a constant reminder that what we are doing (in the military) is very dangerous.”
That being said, it’s still a job that must be done. Jordan’s duties as Mortuary NCO, which was only a part of his job during a 20-year career that included food management and preparation, included a litany of responsibilities. He was the one who had to ensure the bodies were properly embalmed by contractors and that the makeup applied was proper. He was also the one who put the uniforms on the bodies of his deceased comrades.
As you might imagine, the job took a toll on Jordan and he would eventually be diagnosed with PTSD and medically retired in 2013.
“Initially the transition was horrible to be honest with you,” Jordan recalled. “I had four or five different jobs and struggled to find my place in the civilian world.”
He would eventually find his place working with Warrior’s Heart, an organization working to help veterans struggling with PTSD and addiction issues.
He also found an outlet for his own issues by writing his memoir “And Then I Cried: Stories Of A Mortuary NCO” though writing didn’t necessarily come easy to him to begin with.
“It was an interesting time,” Jordan said. “Once I opened what I call the ‘pain vain’ and started putting my stories down on paper and actually seeing them, it just kinda flowed out of me. I couldn’t stop. I would stay up ’til 4 or 5 in the morning writing. Just poring away at it, reliving these stories in an effort to just get them on paper and keep them there. I tell myself those memories live in the cover of that book now and they don’t need to reside in my head.”
Those memories have been well received, with the book garnering a 4.5-star rating on Amazon. While Jordan likes to see people enjoying his work and giving him a high rating, in the grand scheme of things, it’s hearing from readers affected by his work that has meant the most.
“I’ve had several people tell me ‘I read your book and it saved my life’ and that’s what really matters.”
The full interview with Justin Jordan is available below, you can either stream directly from the player, or to download click the share button and select “download” from the options menu. And for another look at military mortuary services, check out this recent interview ConnectingVets conducted with an Army mortician.