This has been around before but should be read again ~ 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
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
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
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
'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
'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.
I know every one who 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. They die for me and mine and you and yours and deserve
our honor and respect.
Of all the gifts you could give a Marine, Soldier,
Sailor, Airman,& others deployed in harm's way, prayer is the very
'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.. In Jesus Name,
GOD BLESS YOU!!!