NEWPORT, CARTERET COUNTY - 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."
Officials stated there are exceptions. But the standard time for return is approximately 36 to 48 hours.
Debbie said she's just glad she can lay her husband to rest.
"The fight has been a battle. But we've done it all for our family to make sure he got the proper welcome home," she said.
After starting a petition that has garnered thousands of signatures, as well as reaching out to lawmakers, a Newport family will soon be reunited with their veteran father who died while working as a contractor in Afghanistan.
The body of Scott Allen Manley landed at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware Wednesday afternoon, his family told NewsChannel 12. His family said they hope to have Manley back home in Newport by Friday or Saturday, after his body undergoes an autopsy and gets embalmed.
Manley was working as a government contractor at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan when he suffered heart problems and died late Friday night, said his daughters, Samantha and Whitney Salter.
Manley had served in the Air Force for 24 years before working as a government contractor for the past seven years.
At first, his daughters were told that since Manley was not an active military member anymore, his body could not be brought home via a military flight.
According to Samantha, she and her family were told they'd have to wait up to two weeks before Manley's body gets returned home.
To get Manley's body home sooner, Samantha and Whitney started an online petition-- one that has received almost 2,000 signatures. In addition, the sisters reached out to congressmen, the State Department and even the Pentagon.
Congressman Walter B. Jones saw their story and had been working with them since early Monday to get Manley's body back home from Afghanistan, Jone's communications director stated.
Manley's family said they will make funeral plans once his body returns to Newport in the next few days.
According to family, Manley spent the last seven years working as a government contractor for Rockwell Collins. His job was to lay fiber optic cables. Officials at Rockwell Collins stated they plan to pay for anything his family needs.
A local veteran died last week while working as a government contractor at Camp Leatherneck in Afghanistan. But his family in Newport says his body is not being brought home immediately-- just because he was not an active member of the military anymore.
Scott Manley, known to loved ones as Sam, had been working for the military for more than 30 years, his family told NewsChannel 12. Manley first served in the Air Force for 24 years, before working as a government contractor for the last seven years.
But Manley died from heart problems at Camp Leatherneck late Friday night, said his daughters, Samantha and Whitney Salter. They were told that since Manley was not an active military member anymore, his body could not be brought home via a military flight.
According to Samantha, she and her family were told they'd have to wait another seven to 14 days before Manley's body gets returned home.
"What's going on? Why does my family have to go through this? He was a veteran," Samantha said.
"Our hearts are very heavy. It's an extra burden that nobody should have to go through in a grieving period," Whitney added.
Samantha said she doesn't understand why her father's body cannot be brought back home via a military flight, especially considering that he took military flights every time he went on leave.
"If he was taking military flights to get back over there, why can't he be put on a military flight back here to his family?," Samantha questioned.
To get answers, Samantha and Whitney started an online petition-- one that has received almost 1,500 signatures as of Tuesday night. The sisters have reached out to congressmen, the State Department and even the Pentagon.
"If we can touch one family or change something or to help another family out there, that's what we're going to do," Samantha said. "We need to take care of our veterans. We need to take care of our government contractors. They work for the United States government just as active duty personal do."
NewsChannel 12 tried to contact the Department of Defense to find out if there is a set policy, but we were asked to leave a message.
Manley's daughters are remembering their father as a man who loved his country, and everyone loved him back.
"He was a very smart man, somebody that I looked up to and everybody did. He was just loved by all," Samantha said.
According to family, Manley spent the last seven years working as a government contractor for Rockwell Collins. His job was to lay fiber optic cables.
Rockwell Collins stated they're doing everything they can to help bring Manley's body home. Company leaders said they plan to pay for the commercial flight and anything the family needs.