During his first and third tours in Iraq, Gunnery Sergeant L. Christian Bussler served in Mortuary Affairs.
The Harveysburg-area resident has written a book titled “No Tougher Duty, No Greater Honor: A Memoir of a Mortuary Affairs Marine”.
One reason he said he wrote the book, which he spent four and a half years working on, is that Mortuary Affairs is a part of war that’s never really discussed.
He said he also wrote it as “a way of trying to get the memories out.”
“With my job I saw so much, I felt like I needed to get it out. The more I started to write it down, the better I started to feel about it,” Bussler said.
The retelling of experiences has helped his wife Wendy understand what happened, as well as wives of other soldiers who did the same work.
Another important motive for writing and thus reliving his time in Iraq is to let people know, especially family of fallen soldiers, about the level of care the Mortuary Affairs units give to the remains, and explain how they treated with honor those who were killed.
“Even though it’s war and it’s a horrendous place, I wanted family members to know that the last hands to touch them in Iraq were caring hands,” said Bussler.
When a combat unit is unable for some reason to recover their dead comrades, Mortuary Affairs soldiers head out on recovery missions.
Mortuary Affairs personnel are responsible for “processing” and transporting all fallen soldiers. Processing means going through the pockets, annotating anything they find such as personal effects.
They also, when necessary, have to get a witness statement to identify severely wounded and disfigured victims. Mortuary Affairs soldiers tentatively identify the fallen soldier, but it is people at the Dover (Delaware) Air Force Base back in the states who make the final determination, often based on evidence gathered by Mortuary Affairs soldiers in the field.
In World War II, the service men who had similar responsibilities toward the fallen were part of what was then called Graves Registration Units because many of the deceased were not returned to America, but were buried in the foreign lands where they fell.
He and his fellow Mortuary Affairs soldiers wanted to make sure the fallen soldiers of the Iraq War were returned home with honor.
“It’s a huge part for us to do that. They paid their fullest measure, and we wanted to treat their remains with the utmost respect,” he said.
In Iraq, other soldiers sometimes don’t want to talk to the Mortuary Affairs members, thinking “it was bad luck to talk to body-baggers,” said the retired Marine.
Bussler describes himself as an “immersive writer.”
“It’s a story nobody really knows about. I think it touches a lot of different people. When people will lose their family members over there, or their friends, I think they want to know their loved ones were taken care of. I believe my book does that.”
The book is available on Amazon.com, CreateSpace.com, and Kindle. A portion of the proceeds goes to military-related charities.
Bussler and his wife have two daughters, Lauren and Ava, who attend Clinton-Massie schools.
Reach Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.