The LAX fire department gives our flight with a fallen soldier a water cannon  salute. Photo: David Parker Brown /

The LAX Fire Department gives our flight with a fallen soldier a water cannon salute – Photo: David Parker Brown | Airline Reporter

The thought of a fallen soldier coming home to their family is not easy, but a reality of the world that we live in. I have previously taken a look at how Alaska Airlines professionally handles when they are transporting a fallen soldier, but recently I got to view first-hand not only how the airline, but also Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), treats heroes with the respect they deserve.

On January 15th, I was on a flight from my home town of Seattle (SEA) to LAX and everything went just like normal, until we landed at LAX. A flight attendant made an announcement that there was a soldier who had died for our country on-board, and asked if everyone could please remain seated when we arrived at the gate to allow the military escort to leave the aircraft first. As we taxied, passengers on the plane clapped in support and to show their respect — it was pretty amazing.

Police and emergency services line up to show respect to the fallen soldier. Photo: David Parker Brown /

Police and emergency services line up to show respect to the fallen soldier. A bagpipe player can be seen on the left. Photo: David Parker Brown | Airline Reporter

Every fallen soldier is given a military escort until they arrive at their destination, to ensure that nothing goes wrong and that the soldier to given the proper respects. But not all airlines and airports operate the same way when handling such a delicate scenario.

Neither Alaska Airlines nor LAX seek to put much media attention on how they treat a fallen soldier, and I just happened to be on a flight with one.  It was impactful to see the extra steps and the heavy respect offered for such a tragic situation.

Before we arrived to our gate, our Boeing 737 was given a water cannon salute, which I have only experienced on an inaugural or delivery flight. When we pulled up to the gate, there were layers of emergency vehicles, with their lights on, and multiple groups of emergency services personal in their dress blues. There was even a bagpipe player.

iPhone photo I was able to take of an Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 and the fallen soldier baggage cart at the airline's maintenance facility in Seattle.

In Seattle, Alaska has created a special cart to transport a fallen soldier – Photo (Nov. 2011 at SEA) by David Parker Brown

I was told by an LAX spokesperson that their Airport Honor Guard does this for each fallen soldier who returns via the airport. Also, other law enforcement officers (TSA, Customs & Border Protection, FBI, etc.) will come to pay their respects. At times, a military branch will bring their own honor guard as well. No matter what, each soldier arriving is treated like a hero.

I felt very honored that I was able to witness the respect and skill that Alaska and LAX give to fallen soldiers. Huge cheers to them for doing the right thing.



EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me:
Video: 2013 Year Review of Beautiful Airliners at LAX

Interesting. I was departing out of LAX on Delta a few weeks ago at night. We were passing the Alaska Terminal and saw this very thing, but had no idea what was going on. Just saw a dozen emergency lights. Couldn’t see the water cannon. Makes complete sense now.

Thank you for the article David. I wanted to confirm that LAXPD’s own Honor Guard detail has been handling these details for years (which is what you have captured on that photograph). It is the least we could do to show our tremendous respect for those who have sucrificed their lives for our country. Happy to have that privilege.

Hey Pete,

I am glad you guys are able to do this. I felt honored to witness it.


Not sure if you’ve ever seen it but the HBO Movie “Taking Chance” is all about the respect and beauty of this process. Thanks for posting about this!

I will have to check that out Jon — thanks,


Gus Villa

Just wanted to add that it’s NOT ONLY Alaska airlines, all airlines (domestic) give the same respect. I personally know someone who has participated in many of these Special Details, and has seen it from American, Delta, Southwest, US Air, and United, just to name a few more. Furthermore, it is an LAXPD officer, and retired Naval Master Chief who puts together these Details; in conjunction with the LAXPD Honor Guard (all volunteers), take the utmost pride in being a part of such a special event. And yes David, like you said, it is not done for publicity, it is done out of honor, gratitude, and respect for the brave men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Thank you for the article.

Hey Gus,

You are right, other airlines do similar things, as well as other airports and they all deserve respect for their efforts.

I have just had much more experience learning about what Alaska and LAX does and obviously experienced it with them.

I am really glad I was able to share what is done to honor the fallen.


Great article, it is good to know that although this servicemen are gone, they are never forgotten. Thanks to the airport police, the airlines , and other agencies for paying this respect to our fallen soldiers.

I have witnessed this very act of respect that is bestowed on our fallen servicemen. It is an appropriate and awesome thing to see. The men and women of the airport police, respect branch of the military, and the airline are heroes in their own right for paying such honor to our countries heroes in such a dignified and non publicize manner. Too many times in today’s society people do things for fame and recognition, but this is obviously done out of love, honor towards those who gave their all.

Thanks for sharing this. Similar posts have appeared on other blogs over the years, often written by participating flight crew. I’ve personally seen more than one, one to many. In one unfortunate case, despite being asked to remain seated for the duration, a couple of genuine jerks tried to rush the door. They were quickly and forcefully returned to their seats by uninvolved civilians, most likely vets themselves and literally sat upon until the honors honors were completed. While Alaska does a fine job of rendering honors, they are not alone; most domestic carriers have similar protocols. IMO I wish that this sort of thing was not necessary. As long as it remains so, the vast majority of us will gladly sit quietly in private contemplation or perhaps prayer, before moving on. Who among us cannot afford a few minutes of reflection and respect? A worthy post, IMO. -C.

Luckily our passengers were very respectful, applauding for the sacrifice of the soldier and waiting for the liaison to de-plane.


Richard Parker

As a retired funeral director, your article brought back many memories for me. I am old enough to have been involved with military funerals during the Vietnam war. At that time the deceased were treated with respect and dignity from the military but I cannot say the same about the general public. I began to see massive changes during the Gulf War – not from the military but from the public. Today, for a military funeral, there is a tremendous amount of coordination that goes on between the airlines, military, family, police, news media, cemetery and other private honorary guard organizations. It has always been an honor for me to be a part of this ceremony. Thank you for writing this article. It reminds everyone how proud we are of our military service men and women and the sacrifices they make to preserve our way of life.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Richard,


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *