The Delta Honor Guard, a volunteer network of hundreds of frontline employees who provide services for fallen soldiers being flown home, was honored with the Veterans of Foreign Wars Americanism Award. The organization's top honor, this award recognizes people and institutions for their commitment to patriotism and their support of military women and men.
"For the past 12 years, the Delta Honor Guard has honored our fallen heroes and stood in tribute to more than 5,000 men and women from conflicts as they made their final flight home," said Brian Duffy, VFW Commander-in-Chief. "Each of those ceremonies is somber and dignified. The flags from all five military branches are displayed behind a military escort while [Brian] McConnell or the lead Honor Guard member recites a prayer and the remains are secured and transported from the aircraft. The VFW extends its sincerest thank you to all the dedicated men and women of the employee-led Delta Honor Guard for its most selfless and respectful endeavor."
Duffy presented the award to representatives of the Delta Honor Guard – Johnny Boynton, General Manager of Operations at ATL; Jerome White, Aircraft Maintenance Technician; and Daniel Howard, below-wing OSM in ATL—at the Veterans of Foreign Wars 118th annual National Convention in New Orleans.
Duffy recounted a time when he worked at UPS and was tasked with helping to repatriate the remains of crewmembers who were killed in a plane crash.
"Not having ever done that, I knew immediately who I should turn to for guidance," he said. "I called Delta Air Lines, because of the experience they have, because of the compassion they embody and because of the programs they've developed. In turn, they gave me both guidance and wisdom."
The Delta Honor Guard has transported more than 5,000 servicemen and women, including police officers, firefighters and other first responders, in addition to helping repatriate the remains of service members from historic wars including the American Civil War, World War I, World War II and the Korean War.
At the award ceremony, Jerome White of the Delta Honor Guard said, "We don't [participate in the Honor Guard] for any recognition or award. We do this because it's what needs to be done. It's the least we can do for those who have given their lives."
He added that while only a few employees are typically needed to perform the planeside ceremony, White credits all Delta employees who work behind the scenes to keep the airline running while the Honor Guard members are called away.
The Americanism award was presented "in special recognition and sincere appreciation of its outstanding commitment and dedication to honoring America's fallen service members. For the past 12 years the Delta Honor Guard has ensured that those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our country are treated with absolute dignity and respect as they make their way home. Its allegiance and selfless devotion to America's heroes has earned the Delta Honor Guard the utmost appreciation and admiration of the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States."