Nora McConnell (NM): How did you get involved with the honor guard?
Brian McConnell (BM): Driving across the ramp one day doing my job, I, uh, witnessed some guys taking care of a fallen soldier. They had a blue cart with all the logos from all the military branches and it said All gave some, some gave all. And I, uh, had to pull over and collect myself because I thought it was just amazing that total strangers could take care of our military fallen.
NM: Can you tell me what you go through to honor these soldiers?
BM: Well, the procedures are once I get a notification, I’ll notify everybody on the honor guard. We have folks who come from all over the airport: from the bag points, from the gates, from maintenance, and even the pilot’s group.
Sometimes there’s 20 of us there. Sometimes there’s two of us there but there’s always at least someone to meet every fallen that comes into the Atlanta airport.
We’ll cover the casket with a flag and, as they’re brought out of the aircraft, the honor guard will march up with flags from each branch of the service. At which time I go to the escort, usually someone from their squadron, present them with a card, a coin and a prayer to give to the next of kin.
NM: What makes you so dedicated to do what you do for all of these soldiers and their families?
BM: The number one reason is it’s the right thing to do. These folks have made the ultimate sacrifice and the least we can do is take care of them.
My father served 21 years in the air force with a tour of Vietnam. Of course, you know our son is active duty air force and has served two deployments to Afghanistan. And heaven forbid should something ever happen to our son, I would hope that whoever’s caring for him would care for him with the love and respect and the honor that I would care for their sons and daughters.
NM: Me too.
BM: You’ve always been a staunch supporter of me with the honor guard and I know sometimes it gets trying when you’re sitting in the cell phone lot for three hours past my shift, or coming in early or coming in on days off, but I have never once heard you complain and, uh, I truly appreciate that.
Some people say they have a calling in life. I guess I found mine. Although I’ve never served; I tell people this is my way of serving and I’m just humbled beyond belief to be a small part of that.