Everyone I know always tries to acknowledge and thank the soldiers who have sacrificed to serve this country.
What Captain Richard Rodriguez did on this particular day, however, was more than just a simple act of gratitude.
As Rodriguez was doing preflight checks, one of the flight attendants came up and told him,”We have an H.R. on this flight”. For those who don’t recognize this term, H.R. stands for human remains.
So, he decided to do everything he could to pay respect to the fallen hero.
Captain Rodriguez let the young army sergeant board early, who was an escort of the fallen soldier. Rodriguez also thanked the sergeant for the work that he does for the families of fallen soldiers.
Only then did he board everyone else.
About 30 minutes into the flight, Captain Rodriguez received a desperate call from the lead flight attendant in the cabin.
‘I just found out the family of the soldier we are carrying is also on the board,‘ she said.
It turned out that the father, mother, wife, and 2-year old daughter were escorting their son, husband, and father home. The family, however, was upset because they were unable to see the container that the soldier was in before the take-off.
The father of the soldier asked the flight attendant if there was any way the family could see his son before they made the connecting flight to Virginia. He said 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.”
Normally, such requests would’ve been difficult to handle.
However, not for Rodriguez.
He decided to bypass the standard airborne communication, and contacted the flight dispatcher directly on a secondary radio. When Rodriguez explained the situation, the dispatcher told him to wait until he figures it out.
After two hours, the dispatcher messaged Rodriguez, saying that the airport allowed Rodriguez’s request. The family would be escorted to the plane side to watch the remains being loaded for the final leg home.
Upon landing, he noticed that the ramp area was clear. Normally, “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,” Rodriguez said.
After stopping the aircraft, Rodriguez made an announcement to the passengers right before turning off the seat belt sign.
He 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. 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.’
When the family got up, a passenger stood up and started to clap. Soon, the entire aircraft was clapping. Kind words were uttered to the family as they made their way down the aisle.
Looking back on this day, Rodriguez wrote,
“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”.
Please SHARE this touching story with your friends and family, and remember to thank those who devoted their time to proudly serve this country.