An Eastern Carolina man who worked for the military for more than three decades died overseas. His family expected him on the first flight home, but then they were told it could be seven to fourteen days. Sunday, friends and family were finally able to say goodbye to Scott Manley also known as Sam.
After the family reached out to lawmakers and started a petition online, Manley came home sooner than expected on a military flight.
Family sat in the front row during Manley’s funeral at Salter Path United Methodist Church in Atlantic Beach Sunday.
Manley's step daughter Samantha Salter spoke at the funeral.
Salter said a large falcon flew overhead right over her dad's flag draped casket when he first arrived on U.S. soil. She took it as a sign.
"I believe in my heart, when we finally got our dad home, and he touched U.S. soil, and was taken off that plane, his spirit was able to be set free. He had to wait for the right time to finally let go," Salter said.
She said her step father came home with full military honors.
The Newport man died overseas in Afghanistan in late February of heart problems. Manley was in the Air Force for 24 years. For the last seven years, he'd been at Camp Leatherneck working as a government contractor.
The wife of a local veteran who died while working as a government contractor in Afghanistan talked to NewsChannel 12 about how her family fought to get his body home.
"The wake-up call that he was never coming back-- it's just been very very hard," said Debbie Manley, who learned on Feb. 28 that her husband, Scott Allen Manley, passed away at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan due to heart problems.
"It took me 40 years to find him and it took him just as long to find me," Debbie said.
Scott had served 24 years in the Air Force before working as a government contractor for the past seven years.
Debbie and her Newport family were originally told that since Scott was not an active military member anymore, his body could not be brought home via a military flight.
The family said they were told they'd have to wait up to two weeks before Scott's body gets back to Newport.
But Scott's body returned to the U.S. sooner than expected. His body landed at Dover Air Force Base Wednesday afternoon.
"He had officially landed in Dover, Delaware-- which is something that we have been waiting on for so long," Debbie said.
The family said they are expecting Scott's body to be in Newport by Friday or Saturday.
Debbie said in order to get Manley's body home sooner, she and her family reached out to lawmakers and started a petition online.
"The biggest question that us as family is wanting to know is where it went wrong. How did it get this way? Why have we had the miscommunication?,” Debbie said.
The family took their questions to the staff of Congressman Walter B. Jones. Military and veteran liaison Jason Lowry said the Air Force and the contracting company Manley worked for were able to bring him home.
"The congressman has contacted the Air Force and the DOD to get the actual policy, to take a closer look at it to make sure we don't have these issues in the future," Lowry explained.
NewsChannel 12 also reached out to the Department of Defense to find out what its policy is. The DOD released the following statement:
"I can tell you that DOD policy requires that deceased personnel will be returned to their families as expeditiously as possible while maintaining the dignity, respect, and care of the deceased.
"Deceased personnel, including military, DOD civilian, and DOD contractor personnel, will be recovered from a theater of combat operations and returned to the United States on military aircraft via the Dover Port mortuary. As such, all DOD contractors have priority of movement to return their remains to Dover as expeditiously as possible, the same as any other casualty."