In the case of illness or injury, the primary next of kin will receive a phone call. In the case of death, both the primary next of kin and secondary next of kin will be told in person by two military personnel in full dress between the hours of 0500 and 2400 local time.
The news of a Marine missing in action, wounded, killed, or captured is delivered to the next of kin. The mission is to deliver the information with professionalism, sympathy, empathy, and candor. The military policy is to only give confirmed information which, as we have learned, is not the same policy the media follows. However, names will never be released to the media by the military without first notifying the next of kin.
All military personnel are required to complete paperwork prior to deploying to an overseas location naming the next of kin to be notified in case of an emergency.
The first step in the process of notification is to tell the unit RBE (remain-behind party or the FRO, Family Readiness Officer) at the base location that the Marine deployed from. This usually happens within 8 hours of an injury or death.
Once the RBE receives this information in the form of a report, the RBE determines if the person was WIA (wounded in action) or KIA (killed in action). If wounded, next of kin notification is made by phone. In either case, WIA or KIA, the person notified is whoever the Marine or Sailor has listed in the record of emergency data for the individual. Only the PNOK (Primary Next of Kin) is notified of injury or illness. In the case of death, both the PNOK and SNOK (Secondary Next of Kin) will be notified.
In the case of a KIA, notification is made in person only and by a Marine assigned by Headquarters Marine Corps (HQMC). The RBE may be assigned to do the notification, but will not know that until ordered to perform those duties by HQMC.
The military personnel delivering the news are readily identifiable by their branch-specific uniform and most likely the vehicle they are driving as well. The personnel delivering the news generally work in pairs.
There is no finite timeline for this procedure. It has been our experience that most families are notified within 24-36 hours of the casualty.