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 Post subject: MSgt Shawn Richardson returns home
Post Posted: Dec 22, 2006 4:28 pm 
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This was sent to me by a fellow Pinecammer:

FLIGHT DEPARTMENT HOTLINE December 18, 2006 This is Captain Bob Johnson with the Flight Department Hotline for Monday, December 18.

In lieu of our normal weekly recap, I want to share with you a letter we received from FO Gary Blied, written after completing his duties on American Airlines flight #1904, ORD to MIA, on December 3. This is Gary's letter

"We were informed at the gate that the remains of MSgt Shawn Richardson would shortly be loaded on our flight for the trip to Miami. He was a 17 year veteran of the United States Air Force and had been killed in the service of our country. I went down onto the ramp and found the long box appropriately stationed off to the side in a luggage cart. The curtains on the cart were pulled. I spent a few moments in prayer with him.

"The Captain and I finished our preflight duties and then went down onto the ramp, checked in with the crew chiefs to observe the loading of MSgt. Richardson. We departed almost an hour late due to our late arrival into Chicago.

"We called for push and it was immediately granted. Normally, there's a wait. We called ground for taxi and again - immediately granted. Normally, there's a wait. We were cleared onto the runway and for an immediate take off. Passing through about twenty five thousand feet, we were further cleared direct OMN (Ormand Beach) which is the first fix on the arrival into Miami. That's basically a thousand mile straight line and the most direct clearance I've ever received to Miami. Not a word was ever said - but people were watching out for us.

"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.

"When the procession left the airport, there were two cruisers in front of the hearse and I have no idea how many behind. It was worthy of a presidential motorcade and a fitting and probably all too uncommon show of love and respect for one of our fallen.

"And in case I haven't mentioned this previously - it was 1:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning and I would bet that most of the people on our ramp were not on the clock.

"Every now and then you see it: the silent majority that makes this country the best in the world. I was so proud that night. Proud that my fellow citizens on every level worked to get MSgt. Richardson to his final repose. Proud of all the people who showed up on the ramp early that Saturday morning to show their respect. Proud of our passengers that they recognized a greater purpose than getting off the jet. And proud that my company, American Airlines knows how to handle this situation with humility and honor.

"As you go through your day, remember that there are thousands of men and women overseas in the service of our country, far from home and in danger's way. Please remember that they have families back here who live every day in fear of the phone call or visit with the news that their worst nightmare has come true.

"Be thankful for their efforts and if you know someone who is in the service - get their address from their family and write them and thank them. It's the least you can do."

Living without laughing isn't living.

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