Worth the reminder…

Another one from the mil email string- Many pilots are ex-military/military reservists…

An Airline Captains Announcement

“The American flag does not fly because the wind moves past it….the American flag flies from the last breath of each military member who has died serving it.”

My lead flight attendant came to me and said, “We have an HR. on this flight.” (H.R. stands for Human Remains.)

“Are they military?” I asked.

 ‘Yes’, she said.

 ‘Is there an escort?’ I asked.

 ‘Yes, I’ve already assigned him a seat’.

‘Would you please tell him to come to the Flight Deck.  You can board him early,” I said…

A short while later a young army sergeant entered the flight deck.  He was the image of the perfectly dressed soldier.  He introduced himself and I asked him about his soldier.

The escorts of these fallen soldiers talk about them as if they are still alive and still with us.  ‘My soldier is on his way back to Virginia,’ he said.  He proceeded to answer my questions, but offered no words.

 I asked him if there was anything I could do for him and he said no.  I told him that he had the toughest job in the military, and that I appreciated the work that he does for the families of our fallen soldiers.  The first officer and I got up out of our seats to shake his hand.  He left the Flight Deck to find his seat.

We completed our preflight checks, pushed back and performed an uneventful departure.

About 30 minutes into our flight, I received a call from the lead flight attendant in the cabin.

‘I just found out the family of the soldier we are carrying, is also on board’, she said.  She then proceeded to tell me that the father, mother, wife and 2-year old daughter were escorting their son, husband, and father home.  The family was upset because they were unable to see the container that the soldier was in before we left.

We were on our way to a major hub at which the family was going to wait four hours for the connecting flight home to Virginia.  The father of the soldier told the flight attendant that knowing his son was below him in the cargo compartment and being unable to see him was too much for him and the family to bear.  He had asked the flight attendant if there was anything that could be done to allow them to see him upon our arrival.  The family wanted to be outside by the cargo door to watch the soldier being taken off the airplane.

I could hear the desperation in the flight attendants voice when she asked me if there was anything I could do.  ‘I’m on it’, I said.  I told her that I would get back to her.

Airborne communication with my company normally occurs in the form of e-mail like messages.  I decided to bypass this system and contact my flight dispatcher directly on a secondary radio.  There is a radio operator in the operations control center who connects you to the telephone of the dispatcher.  I was in direct contact with the dispatcher.  I explained the situation I had on board with the family and what it was the family wanted.  He said he understood and that he would get back to me.

Two hours went by and I had not heard from the dispatcher.  We were going to get busy soon and I needed to know what to tell the family.  I sent a text message asking for an update.  I saved the return message from the dispatcher and the following is the text:

‘Captain, sorry it has taken so long to get back to you.  There is policyon this now, and I had to check on a few things.  Upon your arrival a dedicated escort team will meet the aircraft.  The team will escort the family to the ramp and plane side.  A van will be used to load the remains with a secondary van for the family.

The family will be taken to their departure area and escorted into the terminal, where the remains can be seen on the ramp..  It is a private area for the family only.  When the connecting aircraft arrives, the family will be escorted onto the ramp and plane side to watch the remains being loaded for the final leg home.

Captain, most of us here in flight control are veterans.  Please pass our condolences on to the family.  Thanks.

I sent a message back, telling flight control thanks for a good job.  I printed out the message and gave it to the lead flight attendant to pass on to the father. The lead flight attendant was very thankful and told me, ‘You have no idea how much this will mean to them.’

Things started getting busy for the descent, approach and landing.  After landing, we cleared the runway and taxied to the ramp area.  The ramp is huge with 15 gates on either side of the alleyway.  It is always a busy area with aircraft maneuvering every which way to enter and exit.  When we entered the ramp and checked in with the ramp controller, we were told that all traffic was being held for us

‘There is a team in place to meet the aircraft’, we were told.  It looked like it was all coming together, then I realized that once we turned the seat belt sign off, everyone would stand up at once and delay the family from getting off the airplane.  As we approached our gate, I asked the copilot to tell the ramp controller, we were going to stop short of the gate to make an announcement to the passengers.  He did that and the ramp controller said, ‘Take your time.’

I stopped the aircraft and set the parking brake.  I pushed the public address button and said:  ‘Ladies and gentleman, this is your Captain speaking: I have stopped short of our gate to make a special announcement.  We have a passenger on board who deserves our honor and respect.  His name is Private XXXXXX, a soldier who recently lost his life.  Private XXXXXX s under your feet in the cargo hold.  Escorting him today is Army Sergeant XXXXXX.  Also, on board are his father, mother, wife, and daughter  Your entire flight crew is asking for all passengers to remain in their seats to allow the family to exit the aircraft first.  Thank you.’

We continued the turn to the gate, came to a stop and started our shutdown procedures.  A couple of minutes later I opened the cockpit door.  I found the two forward flight attendants crying, something you just do not see.  I was told that after we came to a stop, every passenger on the aircraft stayed in their seats, waiting for the family to exit the aircraft.

When the family got up and gathered their things, a passenger slowly started to clap his hands.  Moments later, more passengers joined in and soon the entire aircraft was clapping.  Words of ‘God Bless You’, I’m sorry, thank you, be proud, and other kind words were uttered to the family as they made their way down the aisle and out of the airplane.  They were escorted down to the ramp to finally be with their loved one.

Many of the passengers disembarking thanked me for the announcement I had made.  They were just words, I told them, I could say them over and over again, but nothing I say will bring back that brave soldier.

I respectfully ask that all of you reflect on this event and the sacrifices that millions of our men and women have made to ensure our freedom and safety in these United States of AMERICA.

EDIT- Thanks to one of my readers, I can now attribute this to the author at https://acaptainslog.blogspot.com/2008/07/fallen-soldier_04.html


Worth the reminder… — 38 Comments

  1. I’m going to skip right past my usual BS about dust and pollen in the air.

    I was crying and that is the simple truth.

  2. Thanks for this post – damn if it didn’t stir up a LOT of dust in my hotel room this morning. ‘Scuse me while I go wipe out my eyes and blow my nose…

  3. I don’t get teary eyed very often but this got to me big time.

    Thanks for posting.

  4. Yeah, I stirred up too many fireplace ashes. Gotta be the reason.

    God bless them all.

  5. This story and it’s emotion is what is going to propel DJT to victory. Love of country.

    • I started tearing up when I read that this young man’s family – parents, widow, child – was on board. I can imagine what they were all going through, and it breaks my heart.

      But for you, unlike literally everyone else commenting, this was nothing more than an opportunity for you to promote your candidate. What a sad little thing you are.

  6. Who say’s men can’t shed tears? Watch “Taking Chance” with Kevin Bacon.

    Also the death notice scenes in “We were soldiers once” had me.

  7. Had to stop and wipe the eyes. Circa 1968-70 worked at the old Stapleton (DEN) as a cargo handler while in college after the Army. The men coming back from Vietnam had an escort but the remains were just cargo. Union and company rules be damned, when that plywood box came down the belt, six veterans were there to place it in a cart, by itself. Those veterans might be ramp workers, gate agents, mechanics and the occasional flight crew. Things have changed for the better and that makes me glad.

    • Me too. I was unaware of how bad the handling procedures were until the beginning of the GWOT, and how the changes made were overall a vast improvement.

  8. can’t be raining inside, must be dust, my allergies are pretty bad

  9. There’s a movie, “Taking Chance” about a Marine escorting a body. I’ve wanted to see that movie for a long time. But, for some reason, I keep putting it off.

    And now my Godson and nephew is going overseas to the Middle East.

    I think I’ll just stay with reading the summary for now.

  10. I’m not sure how many times I’ve read this, and it gets me every time. Thanks for getting me again. This is something we need to remember.

  11. Thank you. That’s a beautiful story… yes, and slightly damp eyes here, too.

  12. To Chris at 1131, I read a moving story and was nothing about politics or even what era that story occurred in. Why did you come on so negatively?

    • So when the person I was replying to, Joe in SC, said that it is things like this that will win reelection for Trump, you don’t see that as political at all?

  13. All- Thanks, and yes, there is always one that has to throw cold water on something…

    Posted from my iPhone.

    • I know. Why do you suppose Joe from SC felt he had to post a political message in this thread?

  14. Chris at 1131, If that was all you got out of this msg. then you truly are the “sad little thing”! Go, get back under your Marxist rock with the rest of the vermin.
    Yeah, I too am a 20 year Vet and a rabid Trump supporter, so there!

    • So you think that a story like this is a good occasion to promote a candidate? Funny, I thought this was about the sacrifice of this young man and his parents, widow, and child, and the humanity and respect of the airline crew.

      Guess I missed the part where it was about a presidential election.

  15. Hey Old NFO;

    Durn dust….I an on the honor Guard with my airline Employer and we meet the military remains everytime we can with an honor Guard that consist of employees that are veterans and we do thisto honor those that have served and given their all.

    This Video was made several years ago.

  16. I read that as I was getting ready for Mass this morning (coffee on the porch).

    Brought a tear my eyes.