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Bringing Home the Fallen: A Dignified Transfer and What It Taught Me

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I recently witnessed a dignified transfer taking place at Reagan National Airport on my way to New York City. I was moved and touched by the power of friendship I saw as fellow WWII Veterans made the trip to receive, honor and bury their friend.


A few weeks ago, I was boarding a flight to New York when I heard there would be a “dignified transfer” taking place at the airport. I didn’t consider much more about this until I was blessed to see it for myself and take a moment to think about what it truly means.

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It had already been a long day and travel was still ahead of me. I boarded the plane at Reagan National Airport, ready for a few hours of rest before heading into a busy week. As we taxied out onto the runway, I looked out my window and witnessed the moving scene outside. I didn’t think I would see any evidence of the ceremony. I was wrong, and I am so glad I was.

As my plane passed them, I gazed out the window, eager to get a better look. I was captivated by the men’s’ rapt attention. It was clear this was the only place they wanted to be.

The bottom of the plane was open and military personnel carried an American flag-draped coffin down to a group of people. Waiting to receive it were the late man’s fellow comrades from World War II, all older men now who made the trip to bury their friend.

A Dignified Transfer and What It Taught Me

Photo Source: U.S. Dept of Defense

As my plane passed them, I gazed out the window, eager to get a better look. I was captivated by the men’s’ rapt attention. It was clear this was the only place they wanted to be. It made me consider the incredible power of friendship and loyalty within the military. There is a special bond between soldiers I don’t believe can be fully replicated. However, we can learn something special from these brave bands of men and women.

I was simply a bystander, someone who happened to be passing through and only able to see a tiny bit of this special moment from behind a small, round airplane window. Still, I am more than grateful I was able to witness this sobering occasion and count it a responsibility to try and learn from it.

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When we go through hard times with people, when we are challenged and pushed beyond our comfort zones, this can make our friendship stronger or it can wither under the pressure.

I can only admire the fortitude of members of the military and their willingness to create a stronger team under the weight of outside forces attempting to break them apart. Our own unique challenges will be very different from those the military faces. However, they will surely come, and when they do, I hope to have a resilient, unbreakable group of friends that will cheer me on as I set forth, pick me up when I stumble and be there to greet me when I finally come home.