Skip to comments.Letter from an airline pilot
Posted on 11/13/2012 1:37:14 PM PST by null and void
Letter from an airline pilot:
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 pre-flight 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 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 co-pilot 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, the 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 everyone who has served their country 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
'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.'
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 & others deployed in harms way, prayer is the very best one.
A special note from a FReeper:
I want every member of the US military to know that WE THE PEOPLE of these United States give them full and unconditional support in doing whatever they need to do to protect our Country and faithfully defend Her Constitution against ALL enemies, Foreign and Domestic.
"null and void" on FreeRepublic.com
I expect there will be some who take exception to my addition.
It's not like I'm not already on a list, although today I may have earned a higher place. So be it.
Pass it on, if you please...
Rendering hand salute! Rest in peace, Fallen Brother!
This is TRUE. Even the lefty site snopes confirms it (http://www.snopes.com/politics/war/johnson.asp)
The soldier was PFC Howard Johnson and the soldier on board was Major Talley.
A great just-post-Veteran’s Day post!
When I reflect on the depth of the sacrifice and service so many have made to this nation, to my freedoms and many blessings, I can only humble myself to the pain I felt last Wednesday and rededicate my efforts to making America a gift to my children.
God Bless those who serve in preserving this great nation.
If you get the opportunity, watch the movie "Taking Chance". The theme is an officer accompanying a fallen hero to his final resting place and is based on a true story.
i dont get the nully and bull’s eye reference
Given the reception folks sometimes get here for posting a thread about “this e-mail I got”, it can be sticking your neck out.
Good post nully.
Awe-inspiring post. Thank you. **blurry screen**
I heard that film was good. Will look it up.
Very moving story. Just when some of us want to give up (after that election and the media/gvt crap now)....We can’t. We just have to try to focus on what is important and valuable and worthy of our admiration and respect.
....And wait to fight another day.
Thanks Null and Void.
Thank you for the post
True, you are held in universal esteem here. ;)
Thank you for posting this story.I’m crying my eyes out right now.Prayers for PFC Howard Johnson and his family.
“How nully painted a huge bull’s eye on his back.”
What does this part of the headline mean?
Anyone who might, just might, believe in utterly crushing any appearance of opposition?
Have you ever in your life heard the terms "politics of personal destruction" or Chicago politics"?
Ever wonder what that could mean to anyone in the way?
I am glad the airline gave respect to the fallen soldier. And p!$$ on anyone who wants to diss our veterans and fallen soldiers.
I have read your “addition” and still have no idea what the heck its supposed to mean....
Can’t help you there.
thanks for sharing. My retired airline pilot/USN aviator and I both shed lots of tears when we read this. Lots of our family members have worn and now wear military uniforms.
I had greatuncles who fought in France in WWI and came home missing legs and suffered lung problems from gas; my dad is a WWII/Korea/Vietnam vet, my uncles were in the Navy and the other was an Army parachutist; my stepson now serves in the USAF. We have served with pride and with passion, and love this country like so many others. I pray that my grandchildren will be able to grow up in an America that they can be proud of and want to defend. I worry that may not be the case...
May GOD BLESS Our FALLEN HERO and His Entire Family!
Null and Void
About a million years (1967) ago I rode a passenger jet to Tansunhut Air Base,(SPELLING?) When we arrived and taxied to our slot, every one of the flight crew lined up at the door and shook hands with every man and woman disembarking there.
We all (crew and troops) were misty eyed, as I am now after reading your post. Thank You
Thank you nully, I have tears on my cheeks.
God I hope so.
I seriously doubt you are wired to understand what life and death mean, and how the wrong word to the wrong person can facilitate change from one to the other, in a totalitarian society.
He’s using “nully” as a nickname for his handle, null and void. Nully is painting a bullseye on his own back for the criticism he will recieve from other FReepers for either adding to the original post or using a chain letter as a post. Got it?
Because of all the a-hole replies I’ve asked the Mod Squad to remove that part of the title.
Fellow FReepers are the least of my concern.
Thank you for relighting the flame. I’m stoked.
My eyes are leaking.
This is certainly an interweb legend. Twere it a real event it would have been covered extensively by the beacons of truth, the MSM.
Thanks, reading this with my eyes tearing up. I wonder what airline this was, they deserve great praise.
Thanks for the posting null and void!! I kept thinking of the movie, Taking Chance throughout the reading. It is a must see for all veterans and their families. (typed through blurry vision)
Some nice freeper emailed me this today.
I will admit that way before I got to the end I was crying uncontrollably.
Dang, doing it again....
Amen... Prayers up
You brought me back to this thread and now I’m going to start in again...
Washes the eyes...and the heart.