On any day, any night, any flight could be the last journey home for a fallen American troop. While the passengers may not be aware of the precious fellow passenger on board, Delta's Honor Guard knows. They're always ready, always standing by at Delta hubs across the country, to solemnly stand at reverent attention. They ensure that person makes it to their final rest. They assure a grieving family that their loved one is under watchful care.
The moving service, which transports fallen soldiers to their final resting place, begins when a Delta flight arrives at its destination. The Honor Guard marches with flags from all five military branches. The group then recites a prayer before the decorated casket is unloaded onto a specialized Honor Guard cart that transfers the fallen soldier to family, the military or a final flight home.
"We treat the soldiers with respect and honor because they've made the ultimate sacrifice," said Billy Reynolds, Ground Maintenance Mechanic and member of the Delta Honor Guard in Atlanta.
These powerful and humbling ceremonies are meaningful to both the Honor Guard and the families of fallen heroes, as they provide a way to commemorate and honor those that made the ultimate sacrifice. If you've ever witnessed it from a plane or the terminal, you know. You probably stopped in your tracks and paused with your hand across your heart.
In some cases, however, family members are unable to attend the service. But without fail, the men and women of the Honor Guard were there.
"There was one instance when a soldier's mother couldn't be at the service because she was handling logistics at the final resting place," Billy shared. "The Honor Guard captured the entire ceremony in beautiful photographs so that the soldier's mom knew her son was in good hands."
"A year later, I got a message from the mother saying that she was flying through Atlanta and wanted to meet us," Billy continued. "It was so good to see her and to know our services and photos meant something to her at such a difficult time."
"As another mom once said to us," Billy added, "'it's the worst picture, but the best memory from that day.'"
While the Honor Guard pays tribute to service men and women who have sacrificed for our country throughout the year, the Honor Guard and the people of Delta hope you take a moment on Memorial Day 2021 to remember those lost, observe a moment of silence at 3 p.m. EDT – a nationwide tradition – and thank active duty military members and veterans.
The Honor Guard is just one part of Delta's commitment to the armed forces, a pillar of the company's culture. Delta employs more than 8,500 veterans and active military members and is proud to support the brave men and women who serve and have sacrificed for their country.