Updated December 4, 2019 . AmFam Team
This is their final uniform.
From precise measurements to the last decoration, Air Force Reservist and American Family Insurance employee Naomi Bouska works to reflect the personal history of each fallen Air Force member. Building the last uniform for service members who die while enlisted is an honorable, yet heavy, job.
“I didn’t really get it when I first started,” says Naomi, who began her mission at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware last April. “But the gravity of it is, that it’s tough. It’s tough seeing it. These fallen wanted to serve our country, they wanted to wear their uniform and, for me, that’s the most inspiring thing. I’m honored to serve them by making their final uniform.”
“Their uniform tells the story of who they are and what they achieved. We have a volunteer ribbon and I think I’ve only seen it once. You know they contributed many, many hours to their community and you know their sacrifice goes beyond the military. And, there’s a good conduct ribbon. With every additional award, you get a knot, so if you have a ribbon with a lot of knots, you know it speaks to their character,” Naomi says. Naomi will continue working as a dress and restoration specialist in the Uniform Section, as the Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge at the Air Force Mortuary Affairs Operations through December.
“When I saw the uniform section, I knew it’s where I wanted to be,” says Naomi. “The attention to detail, honoring the families’ wishes. Every fallen who comes through, whether they’ve been in the military for one year or more than 20 years, has a story to tell, and it’s something way beyond me.”
In civilian life, Naomi’s been a no-fault casualty adjuster with American Family since 2012. She’s career military, too, with 12 years in the Air Force and a rank of Master Sergeant. She was deployed to Iraq in 2009, and served there for six months.
Naomi is married and has three children, which makes the time she’s spending in Delaware an even greater sacrifice.
“I have an amazing husband who supports my marriage to Uncle Sam and he promised to love the package deal. And, I have such an amazing group of coworkers who send me cards and texts, so I still feel connected. I also have an incredible manager who texts me at least once a week to see how I’m doing,” Naomi says.
Dan Restad, branch personal injury protection claim manager, says he’s inspired by Naomi’s service.
“Here is someone giving up a significant portion of their life to honor a promise and perform a job that is so necessary and so valued,” says Dan. “It brings perspective to our lives and our jobs here back home, thinking about their sacrifice and commitment. She represents her family, friends, American Family and our country with great pride.”
At work, people gravitate to Naomi, says Casualty Claim Manager Clay Kroenke, and she leads with courage and passion.
“When she told me about her assignment, she didn’t speak about the challenge, but rather the honor. This is the final time each family gets to see their loved ones, and I know she takes great pride in this opportunity,” says Clay.
The fallen are treated with the upmost respect, Naomi says, regardless of how they died.
“Maybe their enemies were mental or emotional. But, it’s important for the family to know that however they died, to us it doesn’t matter. They served their county and deserve the dignity and honor that is owed to them. Everything is done with honor,” Naomi says.
At times, service members working at the mortuary need to take a break. There’s a huge emphasis on mental health and there are chaplains on site, Naomi says.
“We’re dealing with the casualties of war and if they need to pull us out, they will, because we might need to grieve, but you can’t isolate yourself. The support we have here is incredible,” Naomi says. We’re proud to have Naomi on the American Family team!