These are not normal times, and the Army’s 54th Quartermaster Company does not have a normal assignment. Members of the unit, which does mortuary services, have been serving in New York City, assisting the NYC Office of the Chief Medical Examiner (OCME) with managing tasks related to casualties of COVID-19.
Last week, I shared a story about the company’s work in the Reserve Officers Association newsletter, which I edit. The story came from the Army Reserve News Articles, and we try to feature stories about the Reserve and the National Guard when at all possible (as opposed to active-duty service members).
One thing I loved about this story was the fact that a health care provider is making therapy dogs available to the company’s members. Their work is grueling, and the animals provide needed support.
That evening, I posted the story to my Facebook and tagged the company. I did that mainly because I often post stories about “dispatch puppies,” dogs adopted by emergency services units to help dispatchers deal with their stress.
The dispatch world has been pretty light on puppy stories lately, so I shared the story about the 54th Quartermaster Company because at least it mentioned therapy dogs.
The next morning, I had a message from the company clarifying that they are an active-service unit, not a Reserve unit. The source article we had summarized was incorrect.
That left me with a quandary. I could theoretically just leave our publication alone, except for making a correction in the archived copy. Our copy desk chief suggested I do a correction also (so that readers of our next issue will know we made the change).
I have a couple of thoughts to share about how all of this happened.
First, I appreciate the conversation I had with the copy desk editor. She said sharing this kind of story demonstrates that we care about our work on a personal level in addition to an editorial level (this is true for me).
Second, the conversation I had with the communications person for the company brought tears to my eyes amid pandemic craziness. After I had apologized for the error and explained what I planned to do to fix it, this was the response:
No, thank you ma’am for highlighting the work that has been accomplished here in NYC! Overall [it’s] a whole-of-government approach that regardless of component or agency we all have a shared understanding about the ultimate goal: Assist a beleaguered city in their time of need!Member of the 54th Quartermaster Company
That service member saved the day by bringing the error to light. More than that, the unit is doing their part to save the dignity of those who have passed from COVID-19 and to support a city I love.
Welcome to this week’s Five Minute Friday. Our instructions, via creator Kate Motaung: “Write for five minutes on the word of the week. This is meant to be a free write, which means: no editing, no over-thinking, no worrying about perfect grammar or punctuation.” (But I can’t resist spell checking, as you can imagine.) I also threw out the five-minute rule for this one!
I’m also linking up to Kat Bouska’s blog for the prompt “Share a story about someone who ‘saved the day’ for you.”
Wife of one, Mom of two, Friend of many. My pronouns are she/her/hers.
Emily Bezak says
Lovely story and lesson. Thanks for sharing, Paula! Errors stink, but we’re all human (especially in a pandemic).
Paula Kiger says
Thanks, Emily. We’ve talked enough about my process (I think) that I’m sure you can understand why I waver on this. If it took me coincidentally posting this story to Facebook (and tagging the people involved) to realize the error had occurred, what other errors have I missed? But as you point out, pandemic rules are different (maybe!).
Lee Ann L. says
It sounds like it all worked out in the end and everyone was extremely understanding!
~your FMF neighbor
Paula Kiger says
Precisely. And I loved that convo with the military service member.
Andrew Budek-Schmeisser says
It was an unforced error;
I just screwed up my sums,
and then, in mortal terror,
consumed a roll of Tums,
for this was to be a show
of the lab’s high stature,
and now, would ye not know
we had to cut the fixture
in front of all the VIPs
murmuring in their new hard hats,
but the boss put me at ease
when laughed, “Well, kid, that’s
the way things sometimes have to run,
but be glad I didn’t bring a gun.”
Paula Kiger (Big Green Pen) says
Tums definitely belong in this answer, Andrew. Thank you. Sending prayers and love.