A pilot performed an incredible gesture after being told that the remains of a fallen soldier, and the soldier’s family, were on board his flight.
The captain was a man named Richard Rodriguez. He was preparing for a flight in the cockpit when a flight attendant took him aside and told them they were carrying a person’s remains on board.
The captain asked if the deceased was military personnel and if he was being escorted by anyone. The answer was yes, so Rodriguez asked if the escort could board the plane before everyone else and come to see him in the cockpit.
Rodriguez talked to the soldier’s escort and asked if he could do anything for him. The pilot said he thinks the escort has the hardest job in the military.
A little while later, after the plane took off, an attendant called the captain and told him that the soldier’s family was also on board.
Did the only right thing
The flight attendant asked the other cabin crew if there was anything they could do for the family, and the pilot said he would take care of it.
He did something very unusual – and against the rules.
Rodriguez took over the regular flight communication system to instead contact the airline via a secondary radio. He explained the situation and asked for help to arrange a worthy return home for the family. The airline promised to return, but when Rodriguez did not receive a reply of two hours, he sent a new message.
Finally he received an answer:
“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.”
The pilot printed the message and sent it to the family. When the planet then landed, he decided to do something special. He stopped just short of the gate, and paused to make an announcement.
Spoke on the loud speakers
He pressed the public address button and made the following announcement:
“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. 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.”
When the plane reached the gate and everything was prepared for the passengers to leave, Rodriguez opened the cockpit and saw two flight attendant in tears.
They told him that when the planet stopped, everyone waited the soldier’s family to get off first. When the family picked up their things, a passenger began to applaud the family, and one after another followed the others. When the family went off, passengers showed their support through supportive words and condolences.
“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.”
These words really pulled at my heart strings. There are countless men and women who have fought for our freedom. They continue to do so today, and it’s only right that we pay them respect and thank them for everything they do for us.
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