The captain of an Atlanta-to-Los Angeles flight stunned passengers with a solemn announcement that they had been escorting the body of a fallen U.S. Army soldier on his final journey home, one of those aboard reported Friday.
"It just went silent," Delta flight 2255 passenger Johnny Jet told CBS
of the emotion-packed moment. "You could almost hear a pin drop."
Jet, in a blog post for the Huffington Post Friday
, said the captain got on the public address system about 45 minutes prior to landing the transcontinental flight at the Los Angeles airport.
"The plane went quiet as he explained that there was a military escort on-board and asked that everyone remain seated for a couple of minutes so the soldiers could get off first," he wrote. "He also warned us not to be alarmed if we see fire trucks since Los Angeles greets their fallen military with a water canon salute."
The salute, given a few minutes after touchdown, showered some of the water on the windowpanes of the plane, which Jet said "looked like tears."
Jet said a military officer then came to the door of the plane and spoke to the military escort who had been aboard – and afterward, told passengers:
"I just addressed the escort. 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."
Jet said he then thanked them for our time and walked off the plane.
Jet said emotions escalated when passengers slowly got off the plane.
"To see the Honor Guard and family waiting patiently, while LAX baggage handlers and a military loadmaster remove the flag covered casket first from the cargo hold, was humbling to say the least," he wrote. "I'm not sure if it was the fallen soldier's mother or wife who I watched slowly walk up to the coffin while a few other family members, wrapped in blankets, stood near with a dozen or so of the Honor Guards standing in salute.
"As soon as I saw her reach out to put her hand on her baby's casket, I walked away.
This ordinary flight became extraordinary and is one that I will never forget."
The soldier’s identity was not publicly released.
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