Veterans Day: Fallen soldier comes home to LAX on unforgettable flight

Los Angeles Times Travel Editor

When John DiScala flew from Atlanta to Los Angeles on Oct. 30, he didn’t know the plane was carrying a fallen soldier.

DiScala, whose early life as a college recruiter showed him the travel ropes, runs the successful JohnnyJet website, the forum he used to tell the story of that special journey.

About 45 minutes before landing, the captain announced there was a fallen solider on board. “The plane went quiet as he explained that there was a military escort on-board and asked that everyone remain seated for a couple of minutes so the soldiers could get off first,” he said. “He also warned us not to be alarmed if we see fire trucks since Los Angeles greets their fallen military with a water canon salute…

“A few minutes after touchdown, we did indeed have a water canon salute, which I’d previously only experienced on happy occasions like inaugural flights. This time, the water glistening on the windowpanes looked like tears.”


A military officer was waiting for the onboard escort. And then, DiScala said, that officer told the passengers this: ‘“I just addressed the escort. It is a sworn oath to bring home, to the family, the fallen. Today you all did that, you are all escorts, escorts of the heart.’ And then he thanked us for our time and walked off the plane.”

Passengers who are usually in a hurry lingered at the window after deplaning, watching as the flag-draped casket was removed.

“I’m not sure if it was the fallen soldier’s mother or wife…I watched slowly walk up to the coffin while a few other family members, wrapped in blankets, stood near with a dozen or so of the honor guards standing in salute,” DiScala wrote.

“As soon as I saw her reach out to put her hand on her baby’s casket, I walked away.

“This ordinary flight became extraordinary and is one that I will never forget.”