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fontman
12-17-06, 08:20 PM
Many quietly helped give hero final tribute
America Supports You - American Airlines Flight 1904 Chicago to Miami ^ | Dec 2006 | Gary Blied

We were informed at the gate that the remains of Master Sgt. Shawn Richardson would shortly be loaded on our flight. A 17-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, he had been killed in the service of our country. I went down onto the ramp and found the long box appropriately stationed off to the side in a luggage cart. The curtains on the cart were pulled. It was my honor to spend a few moments in prayer with him.

The captain and I finished our preflight duties and then went back down onto the ramp and checked in with the crew chiefs to observe the loading of M.Sgt. Richardson. We departed almost an hour late due to our late arrival into Chicago.

We called for push and it was immediately granted. Normally, there's a wait. We called ground for taxi and again, immediately granted. Normally, there's a wait. We were cleared onto the runway and for an immediate takeoff. Passing through about 25,000 feet we were further cleared direct OMN (Ormand Beach), which is the first fix on the arrival into Miami. That's basically a thousand-mile straight line and the most direct clearance I've ever received to Miami. Not a word was ever said - but people were watching out for us.

The landing in Miami was uneventful, until we went to turn off the runway. The tower asked us to proceed a little further down. A Miami Dade police cruiser met us on the taxiway. He escorted our American Airlines Boeing 757 to the D terminal. The entire north ramp had been cleared of all aircraft. I'd never seen that either.

As we approached the ramp, we noticed the lights. At least a half-dozen fire trucks, no less than 15 police cars and countless other vehicles were all parked in rows with their lights flashing. As we taxied our aircraft to the gate, the fire trucks saluted our arrival with crossed streams of water shooting over the aircraft. My first seven years of service were in the Air Force Crash Fire Rescue Department. There is no higher salute from the fire department.

We parked the aircraft and shut down. After our checklists, Capt. Jeff Wallace and I went down to the ramp level and observed the unpacking of the casket, then the dressing with a flag. It was accepted by the bearer team, comprised of members of the Miami Dade Police Department and Air Force Honor Guard.

After the "present arms" order (when all military and former military render salutes and civilians put their hands over their hearts) and the "order arms" order, when the salutes were finished, I noticed our jet. I saw a somber face in every window. Not one passenger had moved until our fallen solider had departed the aircraft.

When the procession left the airport, it was worthy of a presidential motorcade and a fitting and probably all too uncommon show of love and respect for one of our fallen.

It was 1:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning, we were almost two hours late. Our reception had probably been waiting for hours and I would bet that most of the people on our ramp were not on the clock.

Every now and then you see it: the silent majority that makes this country the best in the world. I was so proud that night. Proud that my fellow citizens on every level worked to get Master Sgt. Richardson to his final repose. Proud of all the people who showed up on the ramp late that Saturday night and waited hours into Sunday morning to show their respect. Proud of our passengers that they recognized a greater purpose than getting off the jet. And proud that my company, American Airlines, knows how to handle this situation with humility and honor.

As you go through your day, remember that there are thousands of men and women overseas in the service of our country, far from home and in danger's way. Please remember that they have families back here who live every day in fear of the phone call or official visit with the news that their worst nightmare has come true.

Be thankful for their efforts and if you know someone who is in the service, get their address from their family and write them and thank them. It's the least you can do.

thedrifter
12-17-06, 08:37 PM
Be thankful for their efforts and if you know someone who is in the service, get their address from their family and write them and thank them. It's the least you can do.

Amen!

Rest In Peace

Ellie

Jarhed87
12-18-06, 11:09 AM
Rest in Peace, and God Bless.

:usmc: