Honoring Fallen Soldier
“Working for an airline sounds pretty cool, working on the ramp loading and unloading bags, freight and COMAT (company materials) that is hard work. That is what I do, day after day. But nothing compares when a military service member is coming home to his/her final resting place. I experienced for the first time a full honor military funeral detail plane side in all the years I’ve worked in the airline business. This Marine was only 20yrs old, killed in action in Afghanistan. The plane came to our gate and I was told later, the Captain asked for all passengers to remain seated till the Marine escorting the fallen soldier had gotten off the plane and was escorted plane side. I was asked to open the back bin door and see to it the cargo nets and such were out of the way for the Marine in charge of the funeral detail to jump into the bin and get his fellow Marine ready to deplane. I stood next to the bin door in case he had any problems or just needed a hand. He handled the coffin with such care, I immediately started to cry. I have never felt more humbled and so honored to have been a part of something as this and I was so deeply saddened when I saw his parents watching as their son was placed into the hearse. As I was drying my eyes, I was looking up into the airport concourse, I saw the windows were lined up and filled with passengers watching, the Sheriff Deputys, Airport Operations workers and our entire ramp all standing quietly out of respect for this soldier that had given his life for his country. I am so proud that I work for Southwest Airlines and that they support our troops, standing there completely still and thinking of the family and friends who will miss him. It was the hardest part of my job I ever had to do.
Submitted by Sonja Z, who is a “ramper” for Southwest Airlines.