Legend:   Pilot of commercial airliner makes announcement that the flight is carrying the body of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq.

Example:   [Collected on the Internet, 2003]

I want to tell you of an experience I had last night flying home from Atlanta. 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 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. You all know and agree with this, but not everyone does, so I would ask that if you meet anyone that’s not “on board” with this philosophy, i.e. the protesters, that you “correct the situation”.

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. Please pray that our soldiers’ sight is acute, their aim is true, and that as many come home as God can spare.

Origins:   It’s not clear what aspect of this item people are seeking confirmation of when they ask if it’s “true,” but we’ll give it a shot:

  • True:

    Howard Johnson

    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 killed in action during an ambush near Nasiriyah, Iraq, on 23 March 2003.

  • Likely: Since PFC Johnson was from Alabama (and was buried on 6 April 2003 at Gethsemane Cemetery in Mobile), it’s not improbable that his body was carried on a commercial flight from Atlanta to Alabama, that the pilot of that flight made an announcement to that effect, and that many passengers on the flight responded to the announcement with reverence and appreciation.
  • (The message quoted above often carries the signature block of an Andy Nelson, but he was merely a forwarder of the message and not its originator.)

  • Not true: That anti-war protesters need to “correct the situation” and get “on board” with the philosophy that many young people volunteer for the military and are prepared to give their lives protecting our country. Anti-war protesters (except for fringe groups) aren’t disparaging servicemen or discounting the value of their contributions; anti-war protesters are expressing their opinion that they don’t believe the current situation is one for which our servicemen should be called upon to give their lives.

Last updated:   16 October 2007


  Sources Sources:

    Andrews, Casandra.   “Mobile Mystery E-mail Circulating the Globe.”

    Mobile Register.   24 April 2003.