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RJSamp
04-26-2007, 07:29 AM
Diary Of A Last and Final Flight Home

February 17, 2007,

0350 I was at curbside at 24th and M, Washington DC. 16 Degrees with a light breeze. Going home after my second week of freezing temps to my warm home in So Cal. Take a walk on the beach, ride a horse, climb a mountain and get back to living. I'm tired of the cold.

0425 paying the taxi fare at Dulles in front of the United Airlines counter, still cold.

0450 engaged the self-serve ticker machine and it delivers my ticket, baggage tag and boarding pass. Hmmm, that Marine over there is all dressed up in his dress blues a bit early this morning... "Good morning, Captain, you're looking sharp." He says, "Thank you, sir."

Pass Security and to my gate for a decaf coffee and 5 hours sleep. A quick check of the flight status monitor and UA Flt 211 is on time.

I'm up front, so how bad can that be? Hmmm, there's that same Marine. He must be heading to Pendleton to see his lady at LAX for the long weekend, all dressed up like that.... Or maybe not. I dunno.

The speaker system announces "Attention in the boarding area, we'll begin boarding in 10 minutes, we have some additional duties to attend to this morning, but we'll have you out of here on time."

The Marine Captain has now been joined by five others. BINGO, I get it, he's not visiting his lady, he's an official escort. I remember doing that once, CACO duty. I still remember the names of the victim and family, The Bruno Family in Mojave... all of them, wows, that was 24 years ago.

On board, 0600: "Good morning folks, this is the Captain. This morning we've been attending to some additional duties, and I apologize for being 10 minutes late for push back, but I believe we'll be early into LAX. This morning it is my sad pleasure to announce that 1st LT Jared Landaker, USMC will be flying with us to his Big Bear home in Southern California. Jared lost his life over the sky's of Iraq earlier this month, and today we have the honor of returning him home along with his Mother, Father and Brother. Please join me in making the journey comfortable for the Landaker family and their uniformed escort. Now sit back and enjoy your ride. We're not expecting any turbulence until we reach the Rocky Mountain area, but we'll do what we can to ensure a smooth ride. For those interested, you can listen in to our progress on Channel 9."

Click Channel 9: "Good morning UA 211. You are cleared to taxi, takeoff and cleared to LAX as filed."

4 hours and 35 minutes later over Big Bear MT, the AB320 makes a left roll, a steep bank and then one to the right...Nice touch. Nice tribute.

Five minutes out from landing, the Captain comes on the speaker: "Ladies and Gents, after landing I'm leaving the fasten seatbelt sign on, and I ask everyone to please yield to the Landaker family. Please remain seated until all members of the family have departed the aircraft. Thank you for your patience. We are 20 minutes early."

On roll out, I notice red lights, emergency vehicles approaching. We're being escorted directly to our gate, no waiting, not even a pause. Out the left window, a dozen Marines in full dress blues. A true class act by everyone, down to a person. Way to go United Airlines for doing things RIGHT, Air Traffic Control for getting the message, and to all security personnel for your display of brotherhood.

When the family departed the aircraft everyone sat silent, then I heard a lady say, "God Bless you and your family, and thank you."

Then a somber round of applause. The Captain read a prepared note from Mrs. Landaker to the effect, "Thank you all for your patience and heartfelt concern for us and our son. We sincerely appreciate the sentiment. It's good to have Jared home."

After departing the a/c I found myself along with 30 others from our flight looking out the lobby window back at the plane. Not a dry eye. It was one of the most emotional moments I've ever experienced. We all stood there silently, and watched as Jared was taken by his honor guard to an awaiting hearse. Then the motorcade slowly made it's way off the ramp.

I realized I had finally seen the silent majority. It is deep within us all. Black, Brown, White, Yellow, Red, Purple, we're all children, parents, brothers, sisters, etc...we are an American family.

Official Report: February 7, 2007, Anbar Province, Iraq . 1st LT Jared Landaker United States Marine Corps, from Big Bear California, gave his life in service to his country. Fatally wounded when his CH-46 helicopter was shot down by enemy fire. Jared and his crew all perished. His life was the ultimate sacrifice of a grateful military family and nation.

His death occurred at the same time as Anna Nicole Smith, a drug using person with a 7th grade education of no pedigree who dominated our news for two weeks while Jared became a number on CNN. And most unfortunately, Jared's death underscores a fact that we are a military at war, not a nation at war. It has been said that Marines are at war. America is at the mall.

1st LT Landaker, a man I came to know in the sky's over America on 17 February 2007, from me to you, aviator to aviator, I am unbelievably humbled. It was my high honor to share your last flight.

Marc
04-26-2007, 07:34 AM
RJ,

Thanks for the sincere and wonderful diary of a final flight. We should never forget the sacrifice made.....

sbl
04-26-2007, 11:26 AM
http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2007/03/11/a_soldiers_last_flight_hits_home/

A soldier's last flight hits home

By John J. McSheffrey Jr. | March 11, 2007
ON THE EVENING of Feb. 27, I boarded Delta Airlines Flight 1220 from Atlanta to Boston. It was roughly the 25th time this year that I have boarded a plane, and the process has become all too routine -- attending long business meetings, trying to get an earlier flight, dealing with security lines and crowded planes, all in hopes of getting home in time to see the kids before they fall asleep.

Yet however mundane that Tuesday evening flight was for me, it was anything but for a young soldier for whom Flight 1220 was the last leg of his journey home after being killed in Iraq.
Most of us are insulated and protected from the hard realities of the war because our government tries very hard to hide from us what I witnessed that night.
After we were in the air, the pilot announced that the Navy captain on board was escorting home the body of a soldier who had died in Iraq.
When we landed at Logan Airport, the pilot made another announcement. Don't be alarmed by the flashing lights, he said. He explained that the Logan Fire Department had formed a color guard to honor the soldier.
I witnessed the Navy captain crying as he received an ovation from the passengers on Flight 1220.
I witnessed outside my window the slow process of ensuring that the body of the fallen soldier was treated with the respect he deserved.
On most flights, as soon as that bulkhead door opens, there is a scramble to get off the plane. On Flight 1220, even though the door was open, an entire planeload of adults sat silently, waiting for the body to be removed. I witnessed the flag-draped coffin of one of our finest slowly carried away by six Navy officers.
I did not witness a single dry eye on the plane. I heard a woman nearby say, "Why must America's most honorable die for a decision made under less than honorable pretenses?"
I will never forget what I saw that night: real pain and sorrow from average Americans for a young soldier whom none of us have ever met.
Somewhere out there are this boy's parents, deeply mourning their loss. Sadly, our government's efforts haven't just insulated the public from the mounting losses; the families of the soldiers are unable to see and feel the people who mourn alongside them.
The leaders on Capitol Hill continue to fight about if and when to bring our troops home from the Iraqi debacle. But until they make the correct decision, our soldiers will continue to come home one by one -- in the cargo holds of planes just like Delta Flight 1220.
John J. McSheffrey Jr. is vice president of MIJA Inc. in Rockland.
Copyright 2007 Globe Newspaper Company.

cavsgt
04-26-2007, 04:01 PM
RJ
Thanks for sharing this with us. One of the few times that I have seen something in tribute without adding a tastless political spin.

Phill

Fenian
04-27-2007, 04:38 PM
Mr Lesch, Although we have never met I so often find myself agreeing with your insight on things.If I should ever have the privilege of meeting you.....Drinks are on me! Bud Scully 13th NJ and 69th NY

sbl
04-27-2007, 09:47 PM
Folks,

I just wanted to add another entry to these stories of Americans honoring our dead servicemen. I put the John J. McSheffrey story in (unedited of political sentiment) because it happened so close to home.

RJSamp
05-01-2007, 02:06 PM
My error, and my apologies.....the author's line didn't get copied and pasted over on my original post. I didn't write this. My apologies to the author for having conveyed / misconstued that this was my original work.

To be honest with you all, I was crying pretty hard when I read this and created the thread.....an honest mistake on missing the tag line.

We had a local high school Captain killed by an IED a few months ago.....and Taps is getting harder and harder for me to sound.

cavsgt
05-01-2007, 08:27 PM
RJ
Folded the flag and presented it to the mother of a childhood friend. Taps has had a profound effect ever since.

Look at your playing of taps as the last salute for a fallen friend. This is one of the most appreciated services that you can perform.

Thank You for performing this service.

Phill