Those who sacrifice their lives for their country are the greatest of heroes, and their families deserve recognition for this selfless act. A military condolence letter is not required after a loss like this, but it is highly encouraged within the military.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- What’s an Army Letter of Condolence or Sympathy?
- Example Letter of Condolence for Army Families
- Tips for Writing a Letter of Condolence
Having a reminder from someone who served with the deceased about his or her commitment, dedication, and excellence is a great honor. Though these letters of condolence are only a small token of kindness, they’re a valued way to say thank you for your service to military families and survivors.
Whether you’re writing your own Army letter of condolence for a military family or simply want to look through some examples, keep reading this guide below. How we honor those who give their lives in service of this country says a lot about our nation.
What’s an Army Letter of Condolence or Sympathy?
As the name implies, an Army letter of condolence is a letter written by someone who served with the deceased as a form of sympathy to the family. This letter is given even when the deceased servicemember’s family was informed of the death in person.
This expression of sympathy often includes notes about the individual’s performance, legacy, and bravery. It’s a small part of the individual’s story, showing just how much their sacrifice means for this country.
Each branch of the military has its own guidelines for sending a letter of condolence or sympathy. These are commonly written by those of equal or higher rank to the deceased, and they usually are someone who knew them personally.
In some cases, higher leaders or government officials will write these letters for families. The President of the United States frequently writes these letters for those who die in an act of service.
When do they send a letter of condolence?
These letters are only sent in specific situations. They’re only sent:
- After a service member is declared deceased or missing
- When the family already knows about the circumstances around the death
- When the military member’s death was not through malicious actions
The member’s commander is the one responsible for sending the condolence letter to the next-of-kin after the death notice. While not required, these are highly encouraged. They’re typically sent within five calendar days from the next of kin being personally notified of the death.
Prior to being sent to families, these letters are reviewed by Casualty Affairs. These letters need to be appropriate, respectful, and personalized to the individual. Once approved, a copy is kept in the member’s file.
Example Letter of Condolence for Army Families
Like when writing a veteran’s obituary, you want to tread carefully. This is a time to share someone’s achievements, character, and what made their service matter.
The letter of condolence for Army families should be a respectful, honorary gift to remind them just how important their loved one was. Let these examples below be your guide.
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Letter of condolence for an Army family with children
Writing a letter for an Army family with children is one of the hardest of all. These children had their time with their mother or father cut short, so this letter will likely have significant meaning for them throughout their lives.
1. Dear [last name] family,
I wanted to personally let you know how much we regret the loss of [name and class]. The entire squadron joins me in sending our deepest sympathies during your period of bereavement.
I am personally aware of the numerous professional roles [name] did to support our entire squadron. [Name] was also very active within our military community, particularly with his role in the church and in our community events. He was the first to bring people together, share a funny story, and be a positive leader for others to follow.
[Name] was a top-level performer in all things. His achievements were well-earned. He spoke so highly and fondly of his family, especially his children. Knowing he was serving his family brought him endless joy, and his kindness will not be forgotten.
We all share in your pain and sorry. We would like to pay our final respects to one of our best members. He will always be missed.
2. Dear [last name] family,
I am so saddened to hear of the passing of [name and class]. This is an incredibly sad time, but please know there are so many people around you who want to help.
[Name] was a caring woman. She was a strong member of our community, and her smile will be sorely missed. I know you all must mourn independently, but our hearts go out to you.
[Name] was always there to lend a helping hand to a fellow serviceman or woman. She graduated at the top of her group, and we always knew she would accomplish great things. She never let us down, and we know she never let her family down.
It was a great honor to have served with such an inspiring image of bravery and compassion. Please let me know if there is any way I can support you during this time.
Letter of condolence for a surviving spouse
Surviving spouses of those who have fallen in the line of service are often grappling with the complicated reality of becoming a widow. A letter of condolence may give them a strong reminder of their spouse, a shining light in the darkness.
3. Dear [spouse’s name],
On behalf of the men and women of [command], I would like to extend my deepest sympathy to you and your family on the tragic loss of your husband, [name and class]. He gave his life in patriotic service to the nation he loved. You should be so proud of his accomplishments, not only through his service but also through his character.
Our hearts, thoughts, and prayers are with you in these difficult times. Please let me know if I can be of any help to you. Your husband’s service will never be forgotten.
Please contact me at any time.
4. Dear [spouse’s name],
The tragic loss of your wife, [name and class] on [date] saddened all of us in this command. Please accept my heartfelt sympathies during this difficult time.
Though nothing can take away the pain of this passing, you should be very proud of your wife, [name]. She was a fine young woman, and she was well-liked by all who knew her. Her achievements were many, and her love of storytelling and films led to the strongest of friendships. We all feel a great personal loss in her death.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need anything at all. Again, accept my deepest condolences and sympathy in your loss.
Letter of condolence for the deceased’s parents
Lastly, a letter of condolence to the parents of the deceased is always difficult. A child’s death is a parent’s worst nightmare, so sharing your heartfelt sympathies is very meaningful.
5. Dear [last name] family,
I was incredibly saddened to hear of the passing of [name and class]. Your family must be going through a range of emotions right now, from anger to devastation to pride.
Knowing that your son passed while serving his country hopefully brings you a small piece of comfort in this difficult time. [Name] was incredibly proud of his country, and he spoke highly of his work every day. He made many strong friendships during his service, and he will be remembered for his kindness and strength.
It’s never easy to lose a child, and I offer you all of my sympathy and prayers. Please do not hesitate to reach out if you need anything at all. We all share in this loss.
With my deepest condolences,
Tips for Writing a Letter of Condolence
There are many ways to ensure your letter of condolence is well-received and appropriate. Knowing the “right” words to say after a loss is never easy. It’s important to remember that nothing you can write in a single letter of condolence will make this pain go away.
That being said, these tips below ensure it becomes a lasting part of the deceased’s legacy:
- Individual: Make sure each letter is individualized to the specific person.
- Known facts: Only include known facts about the service member, like statements about their character, personality, and achievements.
- Posthumous: Do not include any posthumous awards, promotions, or decorations. If these are not actually delivered, they could be insulting or embarrassing to the family.
- Full grade: Always identify the deceased by their full name and grade within the opening section.
- Letterhead stationery: Finally, be sure to use letterhead stationery.
Honoring Military Families
After a loss, military families experience a lot of emotions. While they recognize that dying in the line of service is a sign of their loved one’s dedication and bravery, that doesn’t eliminate the grief. These servicemen and women are entitled to a military funeral, but a letter of condolence goes even further to share in this legacy.
These letters are powerful mementos families hold onto for generations. They’re a part of someone’s story, and they’re something to be proud of. While no letters are entirely alike, these examples above are a shining testament to what they should be.