Sunday, December 11, 2005

The return of our fallen 
Here's the latest bit of nonsense sparking a hysterical reaction on the left. But there's nothing new here. If you're not willfully blind and you're not one of those people who think very hard about anything, you'd realize that we've been moving the remains of our nations warriors by commercial air for some time.

Why? Because that's the fastest and most efficient way to get our warriors home, that's why.

And yes, that means moving them in the cargo holds. Only an idiot would wonder why we move them in the cargo holds rather than sort of leaning the casket up against the bulkhead in the stewardess's area by the coffeepot?

Nobody had a problem with this USMC major taking private first class Chance Phelps home via Northwest Airlines when this moving account by an escort came out.
To wit:

When we got to the Northwest Airlines cargo terminal at the Philadelphia airport, the cargo handler and hearse driver pulled the shipping container onto a loading bay while I stood to the side and executed a slow salute. Once Chance was safely in the cargo area, and I was satisfied that he would be treated with due care and respect, the hearse driver drove me over to the passenger terminal and dropped me off.

As I walked up to the ticketing counter in my uniform, a Northwest employee started to ask me if I knew how to use the automated boarding pass dispenser. Before she could finish another ticketing agent interrupted her. He told me to go straight to the counter then explained to the woman that I was a military escort. She seemed embarrassed. The woman behind the counter already had tears in her eyes as I was pulling out my government travel voucher. She struggled to find words but managed to express her sympathy for the family and thank me for my service. She upgraded my ticket to first class.

After clearing security, I was met by another Northwest Airline employee at the gate. She told me a representative from cargo would be up to take me down to the tarmac to observe the movement and loading of PFC Phelps. I hadn’t really told any of them what my mission was but they all knew.

When the man from the cargo crew met me, he, too, struggled for words. On the tarmac, he told me stories of his childhood as a military brat and repeatedly told me that he was sorry for my loss. I was starting to understand that, even here in Philadelphia, far away from Chance’s hometown, people were mourning with his family.

Read the whole thing. The major describes his interaction with the airline and cargo workers. Many aviation workers are former military themselves, too.

And here's an account of the homecoming of Cpl Jeffrey Starr.

He had at least one military escort from the time he left that street in Ramadi, Iraq, on Monday. For the last leg of the journey, a Marine accompanied Starr's body on a commercial flight from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. When the plane landed at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Starr's escort left the plane while all the other passengers sat waiting. The plane's passengers were asked to lower their window shades.

Six Marines in full regalia stood, saluting, on either side of the cargo ramp as Starr's flag-draped coffin rolled out. They carried him to a hearse.

The Starr family and some close friends traveled to the airport together in a black limousine, but were not allowed to meet the plane. While they waited in a cargo area, a Seattle Port Authority officer agreed to use a camera to document Starr's arrival.

So did this news outlet do any actual reporting? Did they bother to think? Provide any independent analysis? Make a few phone calls (other than by ambushing a DoD spokeswoman and asking her what happened without giving her time to research the matter. Of COURSE she doesn't know why something happened on the spot, geniuses!)

Get our warriors home as quickly as we can. Sharp soldiers on escort duty will arrange to personally receive the caskets as they come out of the holds, and do so in a dignified manner.

(Here's an account where things didn't go perfectly, but thanks to some NY State troopers the returning warrior got a dignified reception.)

The airlines should probably load the caskets last, so they can be unloaded first, on a separate forklift, and placed in a waiting hearst by a receiving party.

Occasionally someone will screw up. But it's not clear to me in this case that anybody did. This family had heard their son was coming home via a passenger jet. But he wasn't home yet - they still had time to call Senator Boxer's office to arrange for a color guard. But a color guard may have been present anyway. At a minimum, an escort should have been present, and may well have been.

And no, you don't necessarily KEEP the flag on the casket all the time. That's a good way to destroy a flag. You put it on on the final leg of the journey. At any rate, I gather, our fallen warriors are usually transported in cardboard shipping containers surrounding the casket. So you wouldn't be able to drape it in a visible flag until the casket is removed from the container.

Just like the White Phosphorus flap, it's another case of weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth over incompetent reporting from our nation's media.

Splash, out


In a story about 'honoring' the dead, they can't even b bothered to get his service branch correct:

Controversy Brews Over Transportation Of Marines Killed Overseas

The fallen hero was a 21 yr. SPC in the Army.


The Technorati goons all parrot the 'Marine' controversy line.
And they act like this is a big gotcha. If they cared so much, they would have known about this sometime in the last 2.5 years, don't you think? I remember reading the USMC PFC Chance Phelps story on EHOWA in the spring of 2004, and printing it off for my 12 y/o to read.

Plus, the tv news story mentions the branch of the parents, but never his own. It shows one night shot of a casket coming off of a plane, and another (probably file footage) of baggage handlers handling baggage in daylight.
Another shot shows an Army Honor Guard.
If you look closely at that night shot of SPC Holley's casket coming off the plane you will see his escort in the forefront, at attention, supervizing, and paying his respects. You will also notice the care and reverence with which the freight handler is doing his job. Out of respect as well. Then the switch to the daytime baggage handlers. Nice sensationalism.

And his parents are experts on this detail? I wonder how many they have done since they "know" enough to put their foot down. They allowed their son's Honor to be disrespected and turned his homecoming into a spectacle. I wonder if they even bothered to thank their son's escort for bringing him home with dignity? Quite possibly all the way from Iraq but I do not know how the Army handles this detail.

It's just sad when the ignorant are allowed to sensationalize! Funny, I only heard SPC Holley's name mentioned ONCE in the story. With NO mention of his escort what-so-ever!!! :-(
When Jeffrey (Cpl Jeffrey Starr, USMC) was taken off the commercial flight not only did the honor guard come to attention so did the baggage handlers standing near the airplane. It could not have been more dignified. The Marines did a terrific job. Tim Lickness, Jeffrey's uncle.
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