April 25th, 2010
07:42 AM ET

Dear President Obama #461: Our fellow passenger

Reporter's Note: At one point early in the presidential campaign, everyone thought the decisive factor would be the wars. Turned out, it was the economy. But the wars go on, and that’s the subject of my letter for this Sunday.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/10/24/intl.mann.obama.afghanistan/story.troops.afp.gi.jpg width=300 height=169]

Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

Something moving happened as I flew from Atlanta to Baltimore this weekend, and I want to tell you about it. The plane was packed, as they often are, and many of us on board were not necessarily thrilled about that. Without doubt we were all eager to get home, or get away from home, or just get to where we were going for the weekend.

But as we crowded on board and shoved our overstuffed bags into the overheads and under the seats, many of us noticed a flutter of color outside the windows on one side of the plane. When we leaned over and looked closer, we saw that they were military flags and that some troops in full dress uniforms were with them.

Sure enough, as the boarding continued, the captain of the flight crew came on to announce to the jammed airplane, that we were to have the sad honor of taking one of our fallen troops back with us to the Capitol region. I did not catch the young man’s name, and I’m not even sure of his branch of service. I don’t know where or how he died. All I know is that the captain asked everyone to please be still while the honor guard came on board and took their seats, and for all of us to wait until they had deplaned when we landed. He also said that the young man’s parents and brother would be with us too.

When they came aboard, everyone applauded for them, which seemed like a somewhat odd thing to do, but it was the well-intentioned if awkward effort of a group of Americans trying to express the inexpressible; trying to say “We honor your son’s service, and we are sorry for your loss.”

That’s all there is to the story. The flight itself was unremarkable. The drink carts came and went. The tray tables went down and up. We stowed our electronics. When we landed, we did indeed all wait for the family and escorts to leave first. The captain and crew came out into the aisle to stand in polite tribute to the passing.

I remember every day, and I think we all should, that we have troops overseas serving the interests of our nation. But some days I remember it more than others.



Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (7 Responses)
  1. Ruby Weston, Baltimore, Md

    Wow, Thanks Tom. We must never forget.

    April 26, 2010 at 8:31 am |
  2. Gail Duncan

    Well written and thought provoking. Thank you.

    April 26, 2010 at 6:35 am |
  3. Dennis McClure

    Check out the news summary for AOL' s Main Page for the evening of April 25, 2010. There is a picture of Willie Nelson that looks just like the Shroud of Turin's Jesus Christ pictured on a piece of cloth. Tell Larry King about this and Anderson Cooper! They and your viewer will get a big kick out of this!

    April 25, 2010 at 11:32 pm |
  4. Luke Tomsha

    This was very moving and a sobering reminder I needed to hear as I continue on my day to day life.. Thank You

    April 25, 2010 at 8:09 pm |
  5. Aby

    Thank you for sharing that, it brought tears to my eye, and l am only an immigrant.

    April 25, 2010 at 6:33 pm |
  6. Kirsten Verdi, San Antonio, TX

    Thank you for this letter, my husband is currently deployed and i hope he will come back as a passenger in the economic class instead of in the cargo bay of the airplane. Thanks to the pilot and passengers to pay respect to the fallen soldier and his family.
    Army wife, San Antonio, TX

    April 25, 2010 at 9:52 am |

    Hi Tom,

    The sad thing is that most of the interest that is defended overseas is not exactly the nation's.

    It is an exchange of oil for blood. A blood that runs to defend corrupts like Karzai et caterva.

    That is sad...

    April 25, 2010 at 9:31 am |