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Memorial Day Story

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  • Memorial Day Story

    Kurt Lutter
    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 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 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 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.
    Foot note:
    I know everyone who reads this will have tears in their eyes, including me. Prayer chain for our Military... PLEASE SHARE THIS! 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.
    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!!!
    Never Argue With An Idiot. They Will Drag You Down To Their Level And Beat You With Experience.:banghead:

  • #2
    I usually don’t read really long posts, but I read this. Great story, nice job.

    On September 11, 2010 four of us were on our way to Newfoundland to go moose hunting. When we came into Nova Scotia we stopped at the tourist center for a break. When my Uncle Warren (a U.S. Army Veteran) and I came out an elderly gentleman approached us with some plastic bags in his hand. He shook both of our hands, said he lived across the street and told us that everyone in Canada was thinking of their American friends on “Patriot’s Day.”

    We stood there drinking coffee talking about where we were in 2001. Then he handed me one of the bags before we drove away. In it were buttons of American and Canadian flags, ribbons, more mini-flags, numerous business cards from that area and two CDs full of Civil War folk songs and Christmas tunes, including some by Johnny Cash. I had the feeling this guy fought in WWII. We Americans were not the only people affected by 9/11.

    Also, the 75th anniversary of D-Day is approaching and what crosses my mind recently is if today’s generation would be willing to storm the beaches the way those brave souls did.
    Life's short, hunt hard!


    • #3
      Great stories, guys. Thanks for sharing.
      God bless!


      • #4
        On a visit to my son stationed in Germany in the AF, he took me and his mom to Normandy where we had a private detailed tour of the beaches, battlegrounds, cemeteries and villages. We also toured throughout the region on other wonderful visits to France and Germany. I was most impressed with the many stories of heroism in battle from our English tour guide and from my son who is a student of military history in the region. I came away believing that every US politician should be required to make a similar tour, to see the sacrifices made by our countrymen and the credit given to the allied soldiers, especially by the smaller villages and the vivid memories of thanks still living with the local residents.
        [I]"Now I see the secret of making the best person, it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth." -Walt Whitman[/I]


        • #5
          Thank you all for your comments.
          Never Argue With An Idiot. They Will Drag You Down To Their Level And Beat You With Experience.:banghead:


          • #6
            Our Normandy tour guide took us to a small village a couple of miles inland from the landing beaches, really just a collection of stone houses with a central church, Angoville-au-Plain. There was a cemetery and memorial plot outside dedicated to two US medics (Bob Wright and Ken Moore) who trained together at Taccoa, GA, but did not know each other before taking up refuge in the church on D-Day after parachuting in early that morning. Each had only a day or two of medical training.

            The church was fired upon by both sides several times. The bullet holes are still visible in the outside wall, and inside on the wall opposite a row of high wall windows. The medics set up a triage station within the church. At one point they said that a tank was obviously set to fire upon the church, but then backed away for some reason. Both sides came to know that the medics were caring for soldiers on both sides of the battle and later let it be alone.

            The original wood church pews still showed blood stains. Our guide pointed out that this one had a head wound, and the next one had a chest wound. A bloody Leg was missing from the next. Even the altar still had blood stains on it from where the wounded were placed. We could see a patch in the ceiling where a mortar round came through the roof, and a matching patch on the floor. The round did not explode for some reason. Our guide told us that the medics only lost one little girl wounded that day, due to lack of available blood plasma. At the end of the tour our guide pointed out two original statues placed there long ago in the now newly replaced stained glass windows. The replaced stained glass now bears the images of American paratroopers and an eagle landing in Normandy in a holy setting. These icons were long ago established as the patron saints of this particular church. This church was clearly blessed and had originally been known as the church of the patron saints of "healers". How weird and spooky.

            Everyone who can should take these tours.
            Last edited by Wldrns; 06-05-2019, 07:51 PM.
            [I]"Now I see the secret of making the best person, it is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth." -Walt Whitman[/I]