God Bless America


An Airline Captain’s Report

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.”


AIRLINE CAPTAIN – You will not regret reading this one.

I Promise.  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’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

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 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 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



Foot note:

I know everyone who reads this will have tears in their eyes,

including me. Prayer chain for our Military.  Don’t break it!

Please send this on after a short prayer for our service men

and women.


Don’t break it!

They die for me and mine and you and yours and deserve

our honor and respect


Prayer Request:  When you receive this, please stop for a

moment and say a prayer for our troops around the world…

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, and others

deployed in harm’s way, prayer is the very best one.


Thank you all who have served, or are serving.

We will not forget!!!!


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