Most of the time, when you hear about baggage handlers, its in relation to negligence in caring for passengers’ luggage. Not many people are aware of some very special duties these men and women perform, since they usually happen behind the scenes, but one video gives us a glimpse, touching the hearts of everyone lucky enough to see it.
In the video from February 23, 2013, a group of airline employees and baggage handlers line up outside at the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta. Known as the Delta Honor Guard, this select group is assembled to meet the caskets of returning soldiers— in this case, a fallen Army soldier and his K9 partner, trained to detect IEDs. Everyone present is a volunteer, asking no pay for their part in the dignified ritual of transferring the caskets; as Brian McConnell, an employee who has been part of the Delta Honor Guard since 2006 says, “If you have to pay us overtime to be on the Honor Guard, there’s no honor in it.”
As the two caskets are transferred onto the plane, the Honor Guard holds a ceremony celebrating their service. They display flags from each of the five branches of the military and recite a prayer while the remains are moved from the aircraft’s belly to a specially made cart. At the end, the military escort is presented with a Delta Honor Guard coin, to be given to the fallen soldier’s next of kin. In the background, people in the terminal above observe the procession in awe, gifted a rare opportunity to witness an amazing act of respect.
Several of these ceremonies are conducted each week. In Atlanta, the Honor Guard has helped to transport more than 3,000 soldiers to their destination. Conducted for both arriving and departing flights and even connections between Delta flights the employee-led group shows enormous respect to these fallen heroes at every stage of their journey home.