What a wonderful moving tribute to a fallen hero:
The body of Master Sgt. Shawn A. Richardson arrived at Miami International Airport an hour behind schedule. It was 1:30 a.m.
He was greeted by firetrucks and a row of Miami-Dade police officers, an impromptu honor guard that carefully draped the American flag over his casket and escorted the sergeant from the runway.
The brief ceremony passed quietly, but not unnoticed.
Touched, American Airlines Capt. Gary Blied wrote an essay and e-mailed it to some friends. They forwarded it to others.
Blied’s moving words spread quickly around the world. Thousands of e-mails popped into his inbox. Tearful phone calls came from as far away as Sri Lanka. Church bulletins and newspapers reprinted the letter.
Now, officials may implement a special designation for flights carrying fallen military personnel. And special decorated carts will be used for their caskets at some commercial airports.
Capt. Blied says of his e-mail: “Nobody has been more surprised than me. I’ve been flying over 20 years. I’ve never seen a reception quite like this.”
The letter by Capt. Blied can be found here.
The flight to and landing in Miami were uneventful, until we went to turn off the runway. The tower asked us to proceed a little further down where an escort was waiting for us. We did as instructed and a Miami Dade Police cruiser met us on the taxiway. He escorted our American Airlines Boeing 757 to the D terminal. The entire north ramp had been cleared of all aircraft.
As we approached the ramp we noticed the lights. There were at least a half dozen fire trucks, no less than 15 police cars and countless other vehicles. They were all parked in rows with their lights flashing. As we taxied our aircraft to the gate, the fire trucks saluted our arrival with crossed streams of water shooting over the aircraft.
We parked the aircraft and shut down. After our checklists, Captain Jeff Wallace and I went down to the ramp level and observed the unpacking of the casket, then the dressing with a flag. It was accepted by the honor guard which was comprised of members of the Miami Dade Police Department and Air Force Honor Guard.
After the "present arms" order (when all military and former military render salutes and civilians put their hands over their hearts) and the "order arms" order, when the salutes were finished, I noticed our jet. As I looked up from the ramp level I saw a face in every window. Not one of our passengers had moved until our fallen solider had departed the aircraft.
As the pilot, Gary Blied, said…it’s the silent majority in this country that honor our fallen heroes, who ask nothing in return, that make this country great. Don Boyd visited Miami International Airport last month to witness and photograph the arrival of Sgt. Phillip D. Mcneil and looking at those pictures you can understand how it touched the pilot so deeply: