Archive for February, 2011

His words — our story.

Monday, February 28th, 2011

As I began to prepare this week’s column, I noted that the lone surviving World War I veteran had died. Then, much to my surprise, I received the following message from a friend. I can’t top it, so I’ll pass it along.


*His words… our story.

*My title

My lead flight attendant came to me and said, “We have
an H.R. on this flight..” (H.R. stands for human remains.)

“Are they military?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.

“Is there an escort?” I asked.

“Yes, I already assigned him a seat.”

“Would you please tell him to come to the flight deck. Board him early,” I said..

A short while later, a young army sergeant entered the flight deck. He was the image of the perfectly dressed soldier. He introduced himself and I asked him about his soldier. The escorts of these fallen soldiers talk about them as if they are still alive and still with us.

“My soldier is on his way back to Virginia, sir,” he said.

He proceeded to answer my questions, but offered no words. I asked him if there was anything I could do for him

He said, “No.”

I told him that he had the toughest job in the military and
I appreciated the work that he does for the families of our fallen soldiers.

The first officer and I got up out of our seats to shake his hand.

He left the flight deck to find his seat.

We completed our preflight checks, pushed back and performed an uneventful departure.

About 30 minutes into our flight I received a call from the lead flight attendant in the cabin.

“I just found out the family of the soldier we are carrying, is on board’, she said. She then proceeded to tell me that the father, mother, wife and 2-year old daughter were escorting their son, husband, and father home. The family was upset because they were unable to see the container that the soldier was in before we left. We were on our way to a major hub at which the family was going to wait
four hours for the connecting flight home to Virginia.

The father of the soldier told the flight attendant that knowing his son was below him in the cargo compartment and being unable to see him was too much for him and the family to bear. He had asked the flight attendant if there was anything that could be done to allow them to see him upon our arrival. The family wanted to be outside by the cargo door to watch the soldier being taken off the airplane.

I could hear the desperation in the flight attendants voice when she asked me if there was anything I could do.

“I’m on it,” I said. I told her that I would get back to her.

Airborne communication with my company normally occurs in the form of e-mail like messages. I decided to bypass this system and contact my flight dispatcher directly on a secondary radio.

There is a radio operator in the operations control center who connects you to the telephone of the dispatcher.

I was in direct contact with the dispatcher.. I explained the
situation I had on board with the family and what it was the family wanted. He said he understood and that he would get back to me.

Two hours went by and I had not heard from the dispatcher. We were going to get busy soon and I needed to know what to tell the family. I sent a text message asking for an update. I saved the return message from the dispatcher and the following is the text:

“Captain, sorry it has taken so long to get back to you. There is policy on this now and I had to check on a few things. Upon your arrival a dedicated escort team will meet the aircraft. The team will escort the family to the ramp and plane side. A van will be used to load the remains with a secondary van for the family. The family will be taken to their departure area and escorted into the terminal where the remains can be seen on the ramp. It is a private area for
the family only. When the connecting aircraft arrives, the family will be escorted onto the ramp and plane side to watch the remains being loaded for the final leg home.

“Captain, most of us here in flight control are veterans. Please pass our condolences on to the family.

I sent a message back telling flight control thanks for a good job. I printed out the message and gave it to the lead flight attendant to pass on to the father.

The lead flight attendant was very thankful and told me, “You have no idea how much this will mean to them.”

Things started getting busy for the descent, approach and landing. After landing, we cleared the runway and taxied to the ramp area. The ramp is huge with 15 gates on either side of the alleyway. It is always a busy area with aircraft maneuvering every which way to enter and exit. When we entered the ramp and checked in with the ramp controller, we were told that all traffic was being held for us.

“There is a team in place to meet the aircraft,” we were told.

It looked like it was all coming together, then I realized that
once we turned the seat belt sign off, everyone would stand up at once and delay the family from getting off the airplane. As we approached our gate, I asked the copilot to tell the ramp controller we were going to stop short of the gate to make an announcement to the passengers. He did that and the ramp controller said, “Take your time.”

I stopped the aircraft and set the parking brake. I pushed the public address button and said, ‘Ladies and gentleman, this is your Captain speaking. I have stopped short of our gate to make a special announcement. We have a passenger on board who deserves our honor and respect.

His Name is Private XXXXXX, a soldier who recently lost his life. Private XXXXXX is under your feet in the cargo hold. Escorting him today is Army Sergeant XXXXXXX. Also, on board are his father, mother, wife, and daughter.

“Your entire flight crew is asking for all passengers to remain in their seats to allow the family to exit the
aircraft first. Thank you.”

We continued the turn to the gate, came to a stop and started our shutdown procedures. A couple of minutes later I opened the cockpit door. I found the two forward flight attendants crying, something you just do not see.

I was told that after we came to a stop, every passenger on the aircraft stayed in their seats, waiting for the family to exit the aircraft.

When the family got up and gathered their things, a passenger slowly started to clap his hands. Moments later more passengers joined in and soon everyone was clapping.

Words of “God Bless You’”, “I’m sorry”, “thank you”, “Be proud”, and other kind words were uttered to the family as they made their way down the aisle and out of the airplane. They were escorted down to the ramp to finally be with their loved one.

Many of the passengers disembarking thanked me for the announcement I had made. They were just words, I told them… that I could say them over and over again, but nothing I say will bring back that brave soldier.

I respectfully ask that all of you reflect on this event and the
sacrifices that millions of our men and women have made to ensure our freedom and safety in these United States of AMERICA .

Footnote: As a VietNam Veteran, I can only think of all the
veterans including the ones that rode below the deck on their way home and how they/we were treated.

When I read things like this I am proud that our country has not turned their backs on our soldiers returning from the various war zones today and give them the respect they so deserve.

I know every one who has served their country who reads this will have tears in their eyes, including me.

Prayer chain for our Military:

Please send this on after a short prayer for our service men and women. Don’t break it!

They die for me and mine and you and yours and deserve our honor and respect.

“Lord, hold our troops in Your loving hands. Protect
them as they protect us. Bless them and their families for the
selfless acts they perform for us in our time of need. Amen.”

Prayer Request: When you receive this, please stop for a moment and say a prayer for our troops around the world.

There is nothing attached — send this to people in your address book. Do not let it stop with you. Of all the gifts you could give a Marine, Soldier, Sailor, Airman, & others deployed in harm’s way, prayer is the very best one.


Disclaimer: Minor changes in punctuation and wording was done for ease of reading.

Sad day…

Thursday, February 24th, 2011

Sad day for children…

It’s a sad day for children when those charged with the job of educating them stand with signs slandering elected government officials elected on a platform of reforming education. Yet, we see that in both Wisconsin and — of all places — Indiana.

It wasn’t always this way. When I grew up, faculties shone with talent. Teachers were respected among community members and students mirrored that respect in the classrooms and hallways of schools around this state.

Walk around a public school these days and the language you hear in the hallways would curl your hair. As for respect, it has gone the way of the dinosaurs — invisible.

Unless, and until, respect takes its rightful place in the schools, you can forget about widespread increases in test scores. It is impossible for any teacher to do a proper job if precious minutes out of every class period are spent dealing with troublemakers.

You can do all the talking you want, but discipline is the core of the problem. A lack of discipline undermines the very institution of teaching and derails incremental progress for struggling students. Going to school is job one for our youth. Without an education, a child is doomed to a dismal future.

I tire of seeing pictures of pre-teen and teenage girls with low cut blouses, skin-tight pants and high heels. American school hallways are not runways for shock value outfits. With the prevalent atmosphere, is it any wonder that problems abound within our schools?

There’s an old saying, “Put out an ad and someone will answer it.” Well, what I see passing for girls attire these days puts out an ad alright, but not one I would want for a child in my family.

School uniforms are the key step here — not just a dress code — actual school uniforms with everyone on the same page. Study after study affirms the fact that within a matter of six to eight weeks after instituting uniforms throughout a school, the numbers of student-administrator disciplinary incidents plummet.

Pair good discipline with quality teaching and the result is THE formula for success. Realistically, teachers — like other workers — have a productive career span. When that span is clearly waning or exhausted, it’s time for new blood. When organizational rules rob the school board of removing a teacher past his or her prime, the students lose. Tenure is a dinosaur, too. Think about it.


Thursday, February 10th, 2011

The word “engagement” has a variety of meanings, among which are a military operation. Yet, on Valentine’s Day, all meanings fall by the wayside in favor of that lyrical time in which two young betrothed people plan for an impending marriage.

Christ regarded marriage as a union equal to that of God and His Church. When all the brightly colored boxes of chocolates find their way to the trash bin and all the roses wilt and bend their stems over the lip of the vase, the true meaning of engagement shines.

Living with another person is a journey of discovery. Even those couples with the closest of relationships often differ in one way or another. The old discussion of where to squeeze the toothpaste tube comes to mind. Of course, differences run much deeper than that in some instances, yet the basic emotion and commitment put such inconsistencies in the proper place.

Over the past years, I have learned a valuable lesson in forging a strong relationship. If something or some idea won’t be important this time next year, it is totally unworthy of discussion. We tend to put a lot of emphasis on small things, when — in truth and reality — the large things are core.

This year when you pen that card, slip that box of candy across the table to a dear one, or proudly carry those roses home, remember how precious that other person is to you. Happy Valentine’s Day, one and all.


Tuesday, February 8th, 2011


… support, finance, maintain, back, fund, sponsor, PAY THE BILL, FOOT THE BILL, pick up the tab; aid, assist, stake, sink into, INVEST; slang – bankroll.

Yep, a quick trip to old dictionary and it is clear that this all-too-often used word has a variety of meanings. The trouble is that each of them does nothing to promote fiscal balance in America.

For all the political speak about cutting the budget, nobody brings up a prime target: subsidies. In the real world, if a business cannot survive it fails. Hmmmm….. Has the government heard this? Evidently not.

The market has the uncanny ability to right itself no matter the jeopardy. If nature had the same attitude as the federal government, it would be a dicey proposition. The delicate balance that rules nature should illustrate a lesson to anyone in the business community. Survival of the fittest does rule.

How many times have you sat among your friends and heard this statement? “If I ran my business like the government, I would have been bankrupt years ago.” Well, folks, eventually reality comes to the fore. The federal government, for all intents and purposes, is bankrupt. With a debt that climbs every minute of every day and no end in sight, our government yokes our grandchildren with a debt that will weigh them down. Any dreams of a stable lifestyle and financial security will be just that: dreams.

As the Congress moves to discuss cutting the budget, consider the wise comment of Indiana Governor Mitchell Daniels: “You’d be surprised how many government programs you’d never miss.” Ah, a breath of fresh air.

It won’t be easy to pull the pork hogs away from the trough. They’ve been at it much too long. Like it or not, it’s time they went on a crash diet.

Once upon a time researchers awarded a Golden Fleece Award for the most inane government expenditures and programs, including sponsored studies at colleges and universities. It’s high time that we instituted a similar assessment for unneeded and ridiculous government programs overall. Many hide in the recesses like tumors.

What we need is an MRI (Measured Relentless Investigation). Like tumors, they eat away at the body of the nation and, if left alone, will destroy it.

Nothing is more lucrative than a government contract, but that’s another story…. Get on the phone, boot up that computer, take up that pen. (People still write, don’t they?) Write to your representatives and don’t just request — demand — fiscal responsibility.

It’s not their money. It’s yours. Think about it.