• Packed flight from Atlanta becomes silent to honor fallen veteran returning home

    By: Kimberly Richardson


    One passenger saw something out of the airplane window leaving Atlanta that she'll never forget.

    Ruth Malhotra explains that she was on board a packed Delta flight from Atlanta on a hectic morning on Sept. 6 after Labor Day.

    As they prepared to touch down in Detroit, the captain announced that there was something special about this flight.

    "We have the honor of bringing a fallen soldier home," he said, and explained that an Honor Guard ceremony would commence as soon as they landed.

    Private First Class Curtis J. Wells, 19, was reported Missing In Action in the early 1950’s while serving in the Korean War.

    The Pentagon recently confirmed his remains were found in Korea, and are returning them to his family for burial with full military honors.



    Malhotra tells Channel 2 Action News that all the chatter on board stopped and everyone on board was virtually silent for the remainder of the flight.

    "When the plane touched down, a somber applause erupted from passengers," Malhotra said.

    As the flag-draped casket was pulled from the aircraft and flags were displayed behind the military escort, passengers on board strained to look out the airplane windows on the right.

    The ceremony on the tarmac continued for several minutes, but Malhotra explains that it felt like time stood still.

    "Curtis J. Wells made the ultimate sacrifice for our country in the Korean War," said the captain. "Sixty four years later, he is coming home."

    "Witnessing such respect for a fallen hero and unity around the American flag on an airplane full of diverse people -- all coming and going in different directions, yet caught together in a moment of history -- is something I will never forget," Malhotra said.

    Malhotra continues and explains that in a country as divided as ours, where friends harshly disagree on who to vote for, where athletes refuse to stand for the National Anthem, and where the future seems daunting and uncertain, it was profoundly meaningful to watch an airplane full of strangers unite in this solemn yet unexpected moment, be vividly reminded that freedom is not free, and honor one who gave his life in a past conflict so we could experience a future of liberty.

    "Thank you PFC Wells, for making the ultimate sacrifice," Malhotra said. "Thank you, Delta, for honoring our military and especially our fallen heroes in this way. And thank you, fellow passengers of Flight 629, for the respect and unity you displayed today."


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