Saturday, September 10, 2011

Fallen Soldier

Subject: Fwd: FW: Respect and Appreciation (UNCLASSIFIED)

This Airline Pilot writes: My lead flight attendant came to me and
said, "We have an H.R. 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 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 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 policy
on 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

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
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 is under your feet in the cargo hold. Escorting him today is Army
Sergeant XXXXXXX. 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

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 ...

Foot note:

I know everyone who has served his/her country and/or loves this country
will have tears in his/her eyes; I do.

Consider this a prayer chain for our Military.... please don't break it!

Don't break it! They die for me and mine, you and yours, and deserve our
honor and respect.

'Lord, hold our troops in your loving hands. Protect them as they
protect us. Bless them and their families for the selfless acts they
perform for us in our time of need. Amen.'

Prayer Request:

There is nothing attached. Just send this to people in your address
book. Do not let it stop with you. Of all the gifts you could give a
Marine, Soldier, Sailor, Airman, & others deployed in harm's way, prayer
is the very best one.


Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
Caveats: FOUO


  1. Man, you have me crying like a baby over here...I told you I am cryiing buckets for you.

    I was on a plane one time and we were escorting a young man home, it was very hard not to cry while flying. We too were asked to remain seated and we did....very very sad.

    I have two sons in the military, one is in Iraq right now and one is in the Philipines doing who knows what.....I love my country and it is a sacrifice for me and every mom, wife, son, daughter, husband out there. Thanks so much for this post and may the Lord bless and keep you and your family!!

  2. Beautifully said and yes it evokes tears, but I still enjoyed reading this all the way through!

  3. Thank you darling girl....thinking of and praying for you all tonight.

  4. I have read this many times and have gotten teary-eyed each time. Still thinking of your daughter and Chris' family.

  5. Thank you for sharing this. Hope you are well.


  6. Thank you for sharing this touching tribute. I just read about Chris's return to Dundee and the outpouring of support from the community. Your families will be in my prayers.

  7. Thank you! This was so moving and sad! I am proud and devastated at the same time. A loss of one of our soldiers is a loss for us all. God Bless you!

  8. Thank you for posting this. It is a wonderful story for those of us that have family in the military :)

  9. What a beautiful story. We hold all of those soldiers in our hearts and honor their service and their memory. God bless Tory and all the people who loved Chris.