Saturday, November 11, 2006

Veterans, we thank you.

One day, a soldier in his 'dress greens' boarded the plane. He was escorted by the supervisor to the cargo area of the plane, where he had to make sure everything was in order... He was bringing one of his fallen comrades home from Iraq...
The soldier was seated in coach class. The pilot, a veteran of the Air Force, asked the CSA to see if she could put him in First Class, out of respect, and to honor the soldier who was killed. The CSA said it was full, but would see what she could do.
She called a couple of First Class passengers to the desk, explaining why the soldier was flying with us that day, and then asked if they were willing to give up their seats for him. They refused.
The pilot, upon hearing this, went up to the boarding area himself. He told a few other First Class passengers of the situation and asked if they would switch seats. They also refused.
All of us who knew of the situation couldn't believe that no one was willing to switch seats - especially because coach class was wide open and it was only a 45-minute flight...
After boarding, the captain addressed First Class. "Can I have your attention? You may have seen a soldier in uniform get on the plane. He is on board accompanying the catsket of one of his comrades who died in Iraq. He is taking him home to his family. When we arrive at the gate, there is a ceremony that is being held in the honor of the soldier who died...We ask you to remain seated, to allow the soldier sitting in coach to deplane first so he can fulfill his duty to his comrade and his country. Thank you." He then turned around and walked into the cockpit. He had tears in his eyes.
A gentleman in 1C came up to me. "Where is this soldier sitting?" I told him which seat he was in. This man walked up to the soldier and said, "Hello," and introduced himself. "I am a retired veteran, and was in the Army for over 30 years. The pilot told us why you are here, I remember all too well what that was like. Thank you for your service; I would be honored if you would take my seat up in First Class. " The soldier thanked the man. Tears came to my eyes when I saw the interchange.
The flight went by quickly and we were soon to our destination. As we pulled into the gate, there were emergency vehicles everywhere with lights flashing. There were soldiers standing at attention, saluting the plane.

One of the flight attendants made an announcement: 'Ladies and gentlemen, do not be alarmed at the emergency crews and uniformed servicemen. You may have seen the gentleman on board who is in uniform. He is escorting the casket of a fallen soldier who died in Iraq to bring him home to his family. It doesn't matter what your view is on the war, we ask you to take a moment to pay respect to the young man who sacrificed his life for our freedoms."
As the passengers deplaned, I could tell they were moved. Some were crying, others had tears in their eyes. When they said, 'thank you' that day, I knew it meant more than just, 'thanks for the flight.'
And First Class? Well, after the flight attendant's announcement and the scene outside the aircraft, they stayed put. They not only waited for the soldier to deplane, they continued to sit there, and sit there, and sit there - until I told them it was okay to move... I think the reality had set in, along with a realization that there is more to life than a First-Class seat.
After all the passengers deplaned, we watched the ceremony as the casket came out of the plane. Sodiers saluting, the American flag laying on the casket, the family standing off in the distance - mom, dad, sister, grandparents... It was heartwrenching and yet moving. We cried; we all cried. The flight attendants, the pilots, even the cleaners of the plane... It was truly remarkable.
I shed many tears that day. Tears of sadness of for the families who have lost loved ones, tears of pride for my flight crew and the man who moved seats, tears of patriotism, respect and honor for those fighting for our country...

On this Veterans Day, I pay tribute to those who have died for our country. For those who have fought for our freedoms. For those serving in our armed forces on U.S. soil and in war-torn lands. May God bless America. May God bless our troops. And have a blessed Veterans Day.


Blogger dclaps said...

Wow - what a crazy story and amazing experience.

4:09 PM  

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