ARLINGTON, Va. — Starting next month, the Pentagon will begin to implement a new policy allowing media coverage of returning fallen U.S. servicemembers to Dover Air Force Base, Del., Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Wednesday. Gates also announced the Pentagon will begin to arrange and pay for any immediate family members that wish to journey to Dover to meet the so-called “transfer cases” carrying troops’ remains, if they can do so “without unduly delaying the fallen’s return to his or her own hometown.”

The announcement came two days after Gates made his first visit to Dover, a late night visit with no media present.

When asked if he would like to share his impression of the trip and his personal reactions, Gates first hesitated.

“Actually, no,” he said, “I will tell you that it was very difficult.”

Pressed on it later, he quietly added, “I went to the back of the plane by myself, and spent time with each of the transfer cases,“ but then the secretary took a long pause and moved on with questioning, looking visibly upset.

Gates reiterated the rules will allow media coverage of the arrival process only when approved by families. An earlier Associated Press report said that would likely mean next of kin, such as spouses, for married troops.

“We are committed to seeing that America’s fallen heroes are received back to their loved ones and their country with the honor, respect, and recognition that they and their families have earned.”

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