Uniformed soldiers traveling on commercial flights with civilians isn’t an unusual sight for passengers jetting around the U.S. and the world.
And while a recent Delta Air Lines flight from Atlanta to Los Angeles indeed included military personnel, news about one particular passenger turned this airplane ride into something quite extraordinary.
The Delta captain spoke on the public address system about 45 minutes prior to landing to say the plane was transporting a fallen soldier.
“The plane went quiet as he explained that there was a military escort onboard and asked that everyone remain seated for a couple of minutes so the soldiers could get off first,” wrote Yahoo Travel writer John E. DiScala (a.k.a. “Johnny Jet”).
The captain also gave passengers a heads up about the possibility of seeing fire trucks upon landing, as Los Angeles gives fallen military members a water canon salute, DiScala wrote. He said when the salute did occur, he “previously only experienced [them] on happy occasions like inaugural flights. This time, the water glistening on the windowpanes looked like tears.”
As the plane pulled in with a full police and fire escort, front and back, DiScala said that when the jet door opened, another military officer addressed the escort onboard who was standing at attention. The officer then stepped onboard and addressed the passengers:
“I just addressed the escort,” he said. “It is a sworn oath to bring home, to the family, the fallen. Today you all did that, you are all escorts — escorts of the heart.” The officer then thanked the passengers and walked off the plane, DiScala wrote.
“As you can imagine, everyone was silent and no one got up,” he wrote, adding that, “I’m sure most had meteor-sized lumps in their throats and tears in their eyes like I did.”
After deplaning, DiScala said “a large number of passengers, who are normally in a hurry to get home or make a connection” were standing by the window in the waiting area to witness the Honor Guard and family of the fallen soldier waiting while LAX baggage handlers and a military loadmaster removed the flag-covered casket first from the cargo hold — a sight that was “humbling to say the least.”
“Thank you to all the military who protect our beautiful country and let us live the lives we are able to lead. Without you we would be nothing,” DiScala said. “And thank you to the Honor Guard for making sure these fallen soldiers, warriors and heroes are not treated like just any piece of luggage as they used to, but rather with the care and respect they so rightly deserve.”
Here’s raw video of some of what DiScala witnessed:
If you wish to get in touch with DiScala, check out his Google+ profile.
(H/T: Yahoo Travel)