Every week, Air Force cargo jets land and taxi down the runway at Dover Air Force Base, Del., carrying the remains of fallen U.S. troops. After a chaplain says a simple prayer, an eight-man military honor guard removes the metal "transfer cases" from the planes and carries them to a mortuary van.
The flag-draped coffins are a testament to the toll of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as to the sacrifice borne by those who serve in the military and their families. But this ceremony, known as the "dignified transfer of remains" and performed nearly 5,000 times since the start of the wars, is hidden from the American public view by the Pentagon.
President Obama said last week that he is considering lifting the ban on photographs and videos at Dover, in place since the Persian Gulf War in 1991, raising fundamental questions about the impact of such images on the public morale in wartime.