A Savannah, Georgia, doctor who complained in a Facebook video that a Delta Air Lines flight attendant forbade her from singing the national anthem while the casket of a slain U.S. serviceman (one of four soldiers killed in a 4 October 2017 ambush in Niger) was being deplaned says she has accepted the airline's apology for the 14 October incident.
In the video (since deleted), recorded in Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport minutes after she got off the plane, Dr. Pamela Gaudry described being told by a member of the flight crew that her plan to sing the national anthem with a few fellow passengers was against company policy:
The chief flight attendant came up to my seat, and she kneeled down and she said, "It's against company policy to do what you're doing."
And I said, "The national anthem, and there's a soldier aboard?"
And she said, "Yes, you cannot sing the national anthem."
"We all sat in silence as the honor guard took the soldier off the plane," Gaudry went on, visibly distraught. "I'm humiliated by my lack of courage to sing the national anthem in my own country, on American soil, with a deceased soldier on the plane." She encouraged others to share the video so "people will know that it is a policy of Delta to not be able to sing the national anthem on one of their planes." More than two million Facebook users did so, and hundreds added comments calling Delta Air Lines unpatriotic.
The following day, Gaudry posted a follow-up statement reporting that the airline had contacted her and apologized, admitting that singing the anthem is not against company policy and that the flight attendant "made some bad decisions" in telling her that it was. Gaudry accepted, noting that Delta, for its part, had honored the fallen soldier "beautifully and reverently" as the casket was taken off the plane. Still, she wrote, she regretted backing down from her plan to sing the anthem:
I wish that I had just STOOD UP after the soldier got off the plane and just started singing - I believe in my heart that many would have joined me.
A Delta spokesperson confirmed to us that there is no company policy on singing the national anthem aboard planes, but added that their employees "take great pride in Delta’s longstanding support of the military," which includes voluntary participation in honor guard ceremonies to pay tribute to deceased service members transported via the company's aircraft. He appeared to suggest that the employee in question may have thought the singing of the anthem would disrupt the solemn ceremony:
The Honor Guard is a group of employee volunteers who greet every airplane at the Atlanta airport that carries the remains of fallen military service men and women.
A brief, somber ceremony takes place. The casket is pulled from the aircraft while flags from all five U.S. military branches are displayed. A prayer is recited while the remains are secured to a special cart. Then a Delta Honor Guard coin is presented to the military escort or service member's next of kin.
Passengers are routinely asked to remain seated until the honor guard ceremony is over. "Those who fly Delta with regularity may have been asked by the captain, upon landing, to remain in their seats for a brief period at the gate," a company statement explained, noting that "airline and regulatory policies restrict customer movement within the aircraft in the interest of safety." (In another incident that occurred in June 2017 — also documented in a Facebook video — passengers in a hurry to deplane in Detroit caused a disturbance by completely disregarding a Delta captain's repeated instructions to remain seated during an honor guard ceremony.)
Although some called for a boycott of Delta in the wake of the Atlanta incident, Gaudry says she doesn't support it:
Delta was very reverent and let the honor guards do a wonderful thing to honor each and every soldier that comes home with this beautiful tribute. For just this reason, I personally do not believe in a boycott of Delta.
The slain serviceman, Green Beret Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright of Lyons, Georgia, was laid to rest in a hometown funeral ceremony on 16 October 2017.