Video of Delta Airlines baggage handlers saluting a fallen soldier and his dog as they are returned home has emerged online, giving the public a rare glimpse into a decade-long honor guard tradition founded by a fellow veteran.
The video was first posted on April 2013, according to the Daily Mail, but has recently resurfaced, depicting the flag-draped casket of an unidentified soldier and a smaller box belonging to a bomb-sniffing dog as they are brought home. Both the soldier and the dog were reportedly killed by an IED, and on their return to the United States, they were greeted by members of the Delta Airlines Honor Guard Service.
The honor guard, which is composed of volunteers, hold a brief ceremony for each deceased soldier that is returned. The tradition was started in 2005 by Thomas Schenk, a veteran who worked as a Delta baggage handler, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. As the casket emerges from the belly of the airliner, the volunteers hold flags depicting each branch of the service in line with the American flag, dipping them at a 45-degree-angle in honor of the fallen soldier. The group then recite a prayer for the soldier, before transferring the casket to a specially painted cart. A Delta Honor Guard coin is also given to the fallen soldier’s escort, to be passed on to their next of kin.
— Fund ‘n Give (@scentofduty) March 16, 2015
Though Schenk left Delta several years ago, his fellow baggage handler Brian McConnell has taken over organizing duties for the ceremonies. McConnell himself isn’t a veteran, though his son served in Afghanistan. Of all the honor guard ceremonies he has coordinated, McConnell admits that the hardest by far was for his father, who was escorted home in 2009 by McConnell’s son.
In 2012, veteran Mike Ehrendt found a unique way to honor fallen soldiers from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. As the Inquisitr previously reported, he ran from Minnesota to Texas, planting a flag in honor of a soldier every mile.
As of last year, McConnell reported that the Delta Honor Guard have welcomed home over 3,000 fallen soldiers.
“As a member of the Delta Honor Guard, we take great pride in the humbling task of making sure the remains of these military fallen are well cared for as they make their way home. It’s a sobering experience to stand in tribute while customers on board the airplane and in the terminal as well as the family and escort look on, but it’s our way of serving our country and ensuring our heroes are well cared for on their journey home.”
Though the Delta Honor Guard has grown to include terminals in Salt Lake City, Los Angeles and Washington D.C., among others, the salute afforded to the fallen soldier and his dog was recorded at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
[Image: YouTube via the Daily Mail]