How Dedicated Team Members Assist in Handling Military Human Remains

May 24, 2024
American Airlines team members – including veterans, active military and family of those in the Armed Forces – are honored to serve those who sacrificed.

This article is part of Ground Support Worldwide’s “Handling with Compassion” series, which looks at the respectful transportation of human remains, including military human remains.

Many American Airlines hubs and stations have dedicated groups of team members who help coordinate and assist in the movement of military human remains.

The airline’s largest hub, Dallas Fort Worth (DFW), handles more military human remains than any other American Airlines station. In 2023, the American Airlines Honor Team at DFW helped bring 180 fallen service members home to their final resting places.

The airline’s DFW honor team is comprised of military veterans, team members who are currently serving in the military and those who have spouses or family in the Armed Forces.

When repatriated military remains of an active-duty service member arrive at DFW, the honor team meets the flight and brings family members and other inflight escorts onto the tarmac.

Fleet service team members, who are also military veterans, will typically drape an American flag over the container and carefully place it onto the equipment to unload it from the aircraft. Human remains are offloaded first, before any cargo or baggage. 

As this process is taking place, the honor team ensures that all the activity around the aircraft stops.

Honor team members who are veterans or who are currently serving in the military will salute; others will typically place their hands over their hearts. 

When possible, the airport’s fire department will conduct a water cannon salute. This is arranged by the airline’s honor team, and when an honor detail is provided, the team coordinates with the military. 

Rich Ashlin, VP, DFW Hub Operations, American Airlines, says American’s Fleet Service team members are trained to follow standard procedures to ensure human remains are handled with the utmost dignity, respect and honor. 

As a veteran himself, Ashlin says, “I could not be prouder of the team we have here at American Airlines that participates in these missions at DFW and throughout our system. Their dedication and commitment for our military families is especially moving.”

American Airlines has more than 11,800 team members who are veterans or currently serving in the armed forces. 

"Our team members see it as an honor to help bring those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our country home to their final resting place,” says Ashlin.

About the Author

Rebecca Kanable | Assistant Editor

Rebecca Kanable, a veteran journalist, joined Endeavor Business Media's aviation group in 2021. She has worked for various publications, including trade magazines and newspapers.

Contact: Rebecca (Becky) Kanable

Assistant Editor of Airport Business, AMT, Ground Support Worldwide 

[email protected]