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Mortuary Soldiers Perform Difficult Duty At Pentagon

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 15, 2001 – Two soldiers from Fort Lee, Va., have undoubtedly had one of the most difficult tasks at the Pentagon in recent days: mortuary duty.

Staff Sgt. James Frazier, 35, and Pvt. Khiran Corbitt, 23, are active-duty mortuary specialists from the 54th Quartermaster Company. Since early Sept. 12, the two have been at the Pentagon gathering the remains of victims killed when a hijacked airliner slammed into the building a day earlier.

"After they identify and bag the remains, we go in and bring them out to the truck and transport them to a temporary morgue we've set up," a weary Frazier said Sept. 15. It was mid-afternoon and he was a few hours away from finishing a 12-hour shift.

Frazier said the remains are then taken to Fort Belvoir, Va., about 15 miles south. From there, the Monticello, Fla., native continued, the remains are shipped to the mortuary facility in Dover, Del.

"It is unbelievable, what happened here," Frazier said, gazing at the soot-blackened hole in the Pentagon's west wall that marks the airliner's impact.

The two soldiers agreed that the Army trained them well for their mission.

"You don't think about it, you just do it," said Corbitt, who hails from Philadelphia.

Yet, seeing the loss of life and damage caused by the terrorists' attack is shocking, Frazier said.

"Words can't express it," said Corbitt, dressed in his white coveralls, respirator, goggles and hardhat. "It is crazy," he added, describing his opinion of the terrorists' actions.

DoD officials now estimate 124 service members and civilians in the Pentagon died in the attack. Another 64 people were on the airliner.

Frazier said the United States should react strongly when the perpetrators of the attack are identified. "Something should be done to bring justice to these people who have died here for no apparent reason," he said.

Corbitt said security "should be beefed up" as a result of the attack.

"America should step up again and show the world we are No. 1," he added.

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Click photo for screen-resolution imagePvt. 1 Khiran Corbitt (left) and Army Staff Sgt. James Frazier take a break from their mortuary duties at the Pentagon Sept. 15, 2001. The two soldiers, from Fort Lee, Va., are active-duty mortuary specialists and have been at the Pentagon since Sept. 12 gathering the remains of victims killed when a hijacked airliner slammed into the building a day earlier. Photo by Gerry J. Gilmore.  
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