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Handle with care: Delta Honor Guard memorializes fallen soldiers

Delta employees stood ramrod straight as a box draped in an American flag rolled off an aircraft at the Atlanta airport. Delta volunteers reverently handled the precious cargo, which contained the remains of a soldier who had been missing since World War II.

That same afternoon, those volunteers – the Delta Honor Guard lined up once more as another U.S. service member’s remains arrived. This man was recently killed on active duty during a training accident, and was heading home for burial. The Honor Guard escorted his remains off the aircraft as Delta customers watched from the plane and airport windows.

Honor Guard solider saluteDelta and its employees have always shown respect and support to the U.S. Armed Forces. As Memorial Day approaches, the Delta Honor Guard humbly carries on a tradition of commemorating fallen military members.

The Delta Honor Guard is a group of employees who have volunteered to receive every aircraft that carries the remains of fallen military service men and women. At the plane’s arrival, the Honor Guard marches with flags from all five military branches. The group then recites a prayer, and the decorated casket is unloaded onto a specialized Honor Guard vehicle for transfer to family, military or a final flight home.

“This group has grown to become legendary throughout the Delta system and beyond,” said Matt Sparks, V.P. - Airport Operations. “The way they honor the fallen and the humility that they carry drives hundreds of other people to show respect to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice.”

For the past 14 years, the Delta Honor Guard has transported over 5,000 remains. After starting in Atlanta, the group has grown to serve in other Delta airports, including Minneapolis, Detroit, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.

The Honor Guard is just one part of Delta’s commitment to the armed forces, a pillar of its company culture. Delta employs more than 10,000 veterans, and is proud to support the brave men and women who serve and have sacrificed for their country.

“We don’t do it for the recognition,” said Brian McConnell, who leads the Delta Honor Guard. “We do it because it’s what these men and women deserve. It’s our duty and our honor.”

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