The people of the United States have a high level of respect for the men and women who serve to defend the country as part of the military. The different branches of the military are steeped in traditions that sometimes go back more than a century. The people serving in the military understand these traditions and take them very seriously. Many traditions surround military members who have died serving the country. There are entire rituals that are designed to honor and show respect for the fallen. This is what took place recently on a civilian flight heading back to Virginia.
Captain Richard Rodriguez was preparing his commercial airliner for takeoff one day. A flight attendant came to update him that human remains had been loaded into the cargo hold. This means a coffin. The practice is very common. The pilot asked if the remains were military and they were. The military sends someone in uniform to escort the remains at all times to ensure they are respected and treated correctly. The pilot asked the escort to come into the cockpit. The soldier did and the two had a discussion about the fallen soldier. The escort eventually returned to his seat and the plane took off without any problems.
Things changed once the plane was in the air. The flight attendant returned to the cockpit. She told the pilot that the family of the fallen soldier was on the plane as well. It appears the family was unable to view the casket before it was loaded on the plane. This upset them greatly. The family believed that they would not get to see their fallen loved one again until the actual funeral. The flight attended asked the pilot if there was anything that could be done for them. The pilot immediately went to work trying to figure something out.
Captain Rodriguez decided he needed to speak directly with his employer at this moment. The typical way of communicating would have been through a text-based message system. That was not going to be sufficient in this case. The pilot used a radio to contact his company. He told them about the entire situation and the fact that the father, mother, wife and daughter of the fallen soldier were on his plane and upset. He requested that they figure out something to do before it was time to land. The people on the other end of the radio started trying to do something.
It was about 30 minutes before the pilot contacted his company again looking for a response. The time to land at a layover spot before making the last trip to Virginia was coming up. The person on the radio informed the pilot that there were protocols in place in case this exact type of event happened. He also informed the pilot that most of the people there were veterans and understood. The company managed to arrange for a private escort who would meet the family as soon as they got off the plane.
The escort met the family as they got off the plane. They all watched the casket be lowered out of the plane and then moved down the ramp. A private area was set up where the family was able to spend hours with the casket. They had to wait a long time there until the next flight to Virginia was ready. The escort took the family from the private area when it was time and allowed them to watch the casket being loaded on the next flight. The family and their fallen loved one eventually made it back to Virginia thanks to the help of many people who cared.