| The pilot came on the intercom and went through the usual announcements telling us that "we're just east of Montgomery cruising at 28,000 feet" and "you've picked a beautiful night for flying, just look at the gorgeous southern sunset out of the right side of the plane."|
He then, however, said this: "Please bear with me as I deviate from the script, but I want you all to know that simply by coincidence you have been granted both the privilege and honor of escorting the body of Army Pfc. Howard Johnson, Jr. home tonight. Pfc. Johnson was killed in Iraq defending the freedoms we all enjoy, and fighting to extend those freedoms to the people of Iraq. We are also accompanied by Pfc. Johnson's cousin, Marine Major Talley, who has been chosen by the family to escort Pfc. Johnson home. Semper Fi!"
The plane quickly became very quiet, but soon erupted in thunderous applause that lasted for several minutes.
| It was quite moving, to say the least. As I sat there thinking about what the pilot had said, and visualizing Pfc. Johnson's dead body riding below me in the belly of that plane, I noticed a couple of things. Two rows in front of me sat a father holding his daughter, an infant, and they were practicing "ma-ma" and in the row behind me was another young boy, probably 2 or so, learning to count to 10. Now obviously both are too young to realize we're at war, or that one of our dead was with us, but it made me think, and this is then the point:|
These warriors, mostly young, all volunteers, everyday are prepared to give their lives for our future, for a safer, more secure future for people they don't even know, all based on the principle that fighting and dying for this country is worth it.
By-the-way, the flight ended with all of us deplaning only to line the windows of the gate house to watch Pfc. Johnson's body, draped in the American flag, be rolled out of the plane and into a waiting hearse that was surrounded by his family members.
| SPECIAL NOTE: Howard Johnson was a 21-year-old Army Pfc. from Mobile, Alabama. He was assigned to 507th Maintenance Company, Fort Bliss, Texas, and he was the first Alabamian killed in action during Operation Iraqi Freedom during an ambush near Nasiriyah, Iraq, on 23 March 2003. This was the same action in which Sgt. James Riley; Spc. Edgar Hernandez; Spc. Joseph Hudson; Spc. Shoshana Johnson; Pfc. Patrick Miller and Pfc. Jessica Lynch were taken Prisoner of War. Pfc. Johnson was from Mobile, Alabama (and was buried on 6 April 2003 at Gethsemane Cemetery in Mobile).|
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