From collision fatalities to natural causes, Pacific mortuary sees death on many levels

Matthew Metschke, right, director of Pacific Air Forces Western Pacific Regional Mortuary, and assistant director Mable Justice explain the scope of their work during a tour at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Feb. 6, 2019.
Matthew Metschke, right, director of Pacific Air Forces Western Pacific Regional Mortuary, and assistant director Mable Justice explain the scope of their work during a tour at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Feb. 6, 2019.

From collision fatalities to natural causes, Pacific mortuary sees death on many levels

by Joseph Ditzler
Stars and Stripes

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — The mortuary at the home of U.S. Forces Japan in western Tokyo, tucked away on a side street near the base bakery, is a way station for servicemembers who sacrificed their lives for their country in Asia.

But it’s also where the routine final arrangements are made for almost anyone who dies while based in Japan by the Department of Defense. That means active-duty troops, civilian employees, contractors, eligible retirees and their families.

“We don’t want to have to do our job, if at all possible,” said mortuary director Matthew Metschke in a February interview with Stars and Stripes, “but we’re here and people should know we’re here to be trusted to do it.”

The Pacific Air Forces Western Pacific Regional Mortuary has been in Yokota for almost five years, after moving from Okinawa in September 2014. The move saved money and put the mortuary in a more centralized position in the western Pacific, said Master Sgt. Michael Davis, a spokesman for the 374th Airlift Wing.

Read more at: https://www.stripes.com/1.577895

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