A HERO HEADED HOME

I was booked on a routine flight to Albuquerque, N.M., through Dallas/Fort Worth. As we waited for word that boarding would begin, a very different announcement came over the loudspeaker: Two Marines were to join us on our flight as they escorted a fallen comrade who had given the ultimate sacrifice for his country. The entire boarding area and a collection of American Airlines staff stood in solemn silence as an honor guard of active military and veterans loaded this great young American onto our plane for his final trip home to New Mexico.

The only sound connecting us to the airport at large was the infrequent clickety-clack of a few roll-aboards passing behind us. The coffin was brought to the plane in a special luggage trailer emblazed with the American flag and decorated appropriately for the duty it served.


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Once the honor guard had discharged their duty, we boarded the plane in one of the quietest and most orderly fashions I have seen in my many years of flying. The tears in the gate attendant’s eyes showed that the experience was far more than another day at work for her. The flight was serene. As we taxied to our gate in Albuquerque, the pilot made the customary announcement of gratitude to the men and women of our armed services who were onboard. However, in that moment, my thoughts were focused on the young Marine on our flight who could no longer hear the deserved gratitude of his fellow countrymen and women. As a Marine honor guard delivered the flag-draped coffin from our plane to the waiting family, our pilots stood at attention, saluting.

I am honored to have been, in a very small way, part of this great young American’s final travels home. Due to his sacrifice and those of many like him, I was able to enjoy a first snow of the season with my family in freedom and safety. Thank you to the American Airlines staff and crew and to my fellow travelers for the respect and honor they showed this young Marine. Mostly, my thoughts and indebted appreciation go to this young man, who gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country and to his family.
Eric Brown, Los Alamos, N.M.

KNOWLEDGE IN MANY FORMS

Pursuant to Adam Pitluk’s observations in his Dec. 15 editorial, “Apprentices and Professors,” indeed, knowledge deliverance comes in many forms. Dec. 30, 2010, Flight 1978 from McAllen, Texas, to Dallas/Fort Worth. There was nothing spectacular about this flight. Then, a very subtle but meaningful gesture occurred: The flight attendant in first class, Leandro, very quietly circulated a card for all passengers to sign with a note explaining its meaning. Apparently, this flight, although short, was the last active flight for the other attendant, Barbara, before she retired from American Airlines. We were asked to sign and offer any comments. The card, so quietly, made its journey through first class and coach. Upon arrival at DFW, Leandro made the announcement to all passengers, who applauded. I explained the meaning of recognition, respect and courtesy to my grandson and related that we need to show these dignities whether we fly first or in coach class and no matter whom the person is.

You see, Mr. Pitluk, I am one of those faculty members you speak of (I teach at the University of Texas–Pan American). This kind example by Leandro is something you cannot teach out of a textbook but which has to be experienced at 35,000 feet.
John R. Milford, Edinburg, Texas

TWO HEROES FOR THE PRICE OF ONE

Carlton Stowers’ column about Roy Rogers in the Dec. 15 issue reminded me of my own meeting with Rogers, though my father is the star of this tale. In 1967, my dad, Charles Bennett, was stationed at George Air Force Base outside of Victorville, Calif., for training before heading off to Vietnam. Being right there in Apple Valley, we went to the Roy Rogers Museum. As we were sidling toward a side door, heading for the car, through that door strolled Roy. And my father, a child of the Depression and a pretty serious guy (at least to a 9-year-old like me), lit up like a kid. He had the brightest smile I ever recall seeing on his face. It’s one of my best memories of my father, shaking hands with a childhood hero and smiling that big, broad smile.
Mark Bennett, Apache Junction, Ariz.

AN ESSENTIAL SERVICE

Thank you to editor Adam Pitluk for his Sept. 15 article explaining that the flight attendants on American Airlines are trained to spot human trafficking and for alerting the public about this international crime against children. Human trafficking is a grave problem in our society, and anything that can be done to increase awareness and stop the perpetrators is commendable.
Sister Martha Mathew, OSF, Rochester, Minn.