Airman Colin Everette Dooley is a member of the United States Air Force Honor Guard as a Body Bearer. He participates in Air Force funerals by carrying the remains of deceased servicemen, their dependents, or national leaders to their final resting places at Arlington Cemetery.
Dooley is a 2019 graduate of William Byrd High School in Vinton. He joined the United States Air Force on December 15, 2020. He flew to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, for Boot Camp training and then to Honor Guard Tech School in Washington, D. C. He is currently stationed at Joint Air Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D. C.
His parents are Chuck and Marlene Dooley of Vinton; his grandparents are Alfred and Rose Dooley, Jeanette Dooley and the late Charles Dooley also of Vinton.
According to the USAF Honor Guard, Body Bearers personify perfection. Their standards of flawlessness are set out of necessity to honor the fallen heroes they bear. They train constantly to maintain the precision they are known for.
All Body Bearers memorize a Body Bearer’s Creed, which states in part that every movement must be crisp, precise, and well-rehearsed for they are a team that acts as one. Regardless of the weight of the casket or the distance of the carry, the casket must remain level. Their expressions must appear to be effortless. They are part of the last memory a family has of their loved one.
From standing motionless for hours in frigid weather to carrying caskets that can be up to 900 pounds over uneven ground and around large headstones, there are many obstacles.
Body Bearers are expected to be proactive, not reactive, and to prepare for any unexpected circumstances that might arise.
They begin by removing the casket from the caisson used to transport the deceased to the gravesite. The caskets generally weigh from 450 to 600 pounds, but there are exceptions, when some have been known to exceed 900 pounds. They then carry the fallen to the gravesite while keeping the casket perfectly level and without showing any visible signs of strain as military bearing must be maintained at all times.
The length of the carry can easily exceed 60 yards. Once the gravesite is reached, their duties continue by holding the flag taut and level at rigid attention until the service is complete. Next, the flag is folded and presented to the next of kin.
As difficult as body bearing is physically, the job is also very emotionally challenging. They’re bearing a fellow service member, one of their own.
Not only do they bear heroes– they are heroes in their own right.