MAY GOD BLESS THIS AIRLINE CAPTAIN

MAY GOD BLESS THIS AIRLINE CAPTAIN

He 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 on
his own..

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', he said. He 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 he asked me if there was
anything I could do.. 'I'm on it', I said. I
told him that I would get back to him.

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
this 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 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 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.

5 Comments

4 years 43 weeks ago, 3:30 PM

Anonymous

God Bless Them

This is a great post samD.

4 years 43 weeks ago, 6:25 PM

Vaquero

Vaquero's picture

Rank:
General of the Army
Points:
5502
Join Date:
Dec 2009
Location:
West Texas
Not much gets to me

This did. Like the "Western Union" scenes in We Were Soldiers.

The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!
4 years 43 weeks ago, 11:46 PM

greg az

greg az's picture

Rank:
Secretary of Homeland Security
Points:
5873
Join Date:
Oct 2009
Location:
New York, NY, Tunisia

In an insane world you can always count on Gunslot, our Pres. Sam, and our great members for posts of this type.. Sorry if im getting all emo.. this one got to me..

a man has to hold his word, hold his beliefs, and hold a good sight picture.
4 years 43 weeks ago, 1:03 AM

ivantank

ivantank's picture

Rank:
General
Points:
3383
Join Date:
Feb 2009
Location:
lancaster, south carolina, United States

when I drove the disabled vets to the NHL game in charlotte [ bruins lost ] every year there are less of them going..sad and most of them are all alone

I have reasons for the things I do, just don't expect them to be reasonable
4 years 43 weeks ago, 1:40 AM

greg az

greg az's picture

Rank:
Secretary of Homeland Security
Points:
5873
Join Date:
Oct 2009
Location:
New York, NY, Tunisia

I dont want to say anything that would cause any embarrasment to you.. For what its worth i remember you donating time back before the hollidays, and just want you to know how great i think this is. These old boys arent going to be around long and what your doing is what other people (self included) just talk about..

We give a lot of lip service about how great these guys are... and the wife and i do donate to disabled vets, Big (not gona swear) deal.. What you give matters.. Time.. I 'm sure you make these guys day by spending time with them.. Proud to know you buddy..

a man has to hold his word, hold his beliefs, and hold a good sight picture.
samD's picture
Posted by: samD
4 years 43 weeks ago
Views:
1,385
Comments:
5

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