Memorial Day – A Story and Some Thoughts

I received this today.  I don’t know if its true but I’d like to believe that it is . . . either way, may G-D bless our soldiers, veterans, those whose fought and those who’ve died serving our country and protecting our way of life.  It is the ultimate sacrifice.  My grandfather’s, Leo Rochkind and Norbert Reinstein both served this country in service.  My wife’s uncle, Lee Bove, did as well.  All three (3) have passed.  They are not alone . . . other young men and women have died having served our country.  May G-d bless them and their families.  In Judaism, we say the “mourner’s kadish” or “prayer for the deceased”.    I am saying it now as I read this story . . .


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.

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’, 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:
As a  Viet Nam Veteran I can only think of all the veterans  including the
ones that rode below the deck on their way home and how they were treated.  When I read things like this I am proud  that our country has not turned their backs on our soldiers returning from the various war zones today and give them the respect they so deserve.

I know every one 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.. Prayer for our soldiers Don’t
break it!


‘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..’

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



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