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Precious Cargo ~ A Fallen Soldier

Last year we were asked by a pair of our good friends if we wanted to go on an Alaskan cruise with them and celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. I must say I didn’t jump at the offer; it took me awhile to agree.  Cruising is not my preferred way to vacation.  I know, go ahead and say what you’re thinking, “She’s crazy not to want to go on a cruise!”  However, I must say after we returned from Alaska, the land of independent pioneers and breathtaking scenery I was “Sold!” Plus, traveling with a different cruise company swayed my decision.

Returning from the picturesque landscape of Alaska to the concrete jungle of Houston awaited a memory of this vacation I’ll never forget. We were taxing down the tarmac toward our gate. All of a sudden I saw all this commotion! Fire trucks were everywhere, their hoses spraying arches of water over our plane!

I turned to my husband and said, “What in the world is going on? Is the plane on fire?”

He said, “Oh! It must be the pilot’s last flight.”

I said, “What? What does a fire truck have to do with a pilot’s last flight?”

He said, “Well, that is what they do when they retire, a symbolic tradition.”

I sat there a bit puzzled and thought to myself, ‘Oh, ok.’

As the plane crept toward the gate the story began unfolding. I saw a hearse, a family wearing black standing nearby, airport personnel and soldiers standing at attention. Once we arrived at our gate, the plane came to a halt and the flight attendant announced…

“Please remain in your seats and allow the serviceman aboard to leave the plane first, he’s accompanying a fallen soldier.”

It wasn’t the pilot retiring after all.

Immediately the full flight of passengers applauded, it was a loud, lingering applause.  I truly believe all of us would’ve stood in ovation, except the overhead luggage compartment above us would’ve compressed our skulls into our spines.

The cheering died down to complete silence. You could hear a pin drop. We passengers began to press our noses against the glass. I could see the family members and soldiers cautiously, with regimented actions, unloading the casket draped with our American flag. (The picture above.)

There was lump in my throat, and my eyes were misty…I wasn’t the only one.

Several hours earlier before our flight took off I recall peering out my window seat noticing all the different types of luggage being thrown haphazardly into the belly of the plane.  The hot pink kids backpack, the 70’s looking hard-covered suitcase, the authentic Louis Vuitton trunk (really?).

I thought of this mother and the ‘precious cargo’ she carried in her belly so many years earlier. On the birth of her child I’m sure she received her bundle of joy swaddled in a simple, cotton hospital blanket, perhaps it was pink or blue? Now, this ‘precious cargo’ is draped with ‘Old Glory’, the American flag, each color symbolizing the essence of our nation and the characteristics of this fallen soldier.

Red: Hardiness, Valor, Strength, and Bravery

White: Peace and Honesty

Blue: Vigilance, Perseverance, Justice, Truth, and Loyalty

My mind pondered many things sitting in the seat of plane a year ago, and I think about them still today:

  • I think of you. You, precious one, who has carried ‘precious cargo’ within your womb, only to experience a loss like the mother of the fallen soldier.  Whether it was from a miscarriage, stillbirth or early infant loss.
  • I think of myself. The ‘precious cargo’ I have.  The food upon my table every day. The warm body, my husband lying beside me every night. The money in my pocket for my next Starbucks fix. The love of friends and family around me. The privilege to live in the freedoms of this nation.

During the flight, not once did I think of all the luggage in the belly of the plane, let alone the fallen soldier. Contained in that compartment was something more valuable than the Louis Vuitton luggage. It reminds me how quickly I forget what ‘precious cargo’ I have. Let this story help us to remember every day to ‘give thanks’.

May this day in which we celebrate Memorial Day cause us to remember to pray for the families of our fallen soldiers and for the mother’s yet-to-be who have lost and are grieving their babies.

May God bless the U.S.A. and the men and women defending the freedoms of this land!

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