Friends, I do not know who wrote this, but it was sent to my by a Marine with a lifelong newpaper background. He
thought it was significant and I do too. I have a comment at the end, which I think is pertinent...LeRoy Collins
Keeping inconveniences in perspective.
This past week I was on a 4 1/2 hour, non-stop flight from Seattle, WA, to Atlanta, GA. In all my years of traveling, I
have learned that each time a plane has the opportunity to stop, there is potential for unexpected challenges. Flight
delays, weather & airline crews can create unanticipated challenges on any trip. Therefore, I always try to fly non-stop
between my destinations.
About an hour into this particular flight, the Captain's voice rang over the intercom. He asked if there was a physician
or nurse on the plane. If so, he asked them to identify themselves by ringing the flight attendant call button beside
their seat. I listened carefully but heard no one ring their bell. I immediately began to wonder what was happening.
In a few minutes the Captain informed us there was a medical emergency on board & asked again if there was a physician
or a nurse who could help. When there was no response, we were told we were going to make an emergency stop in
Denver, CO. He apologized but told us there would be a medical emergency team waiting to meet us at the gate & we
would probably only be delayed by about 30 minutes. Though it was necessary, we knew we would all be inconvenienced
by the extra stop.
About 1/2 hour later, we landed at Denver Int'l Airport & the medical crew immediately came on board. However, everything
took longer than had previously been expected. An elderly gentleman, about 85 years old, had suddenly taken ill. It wasn't
clear whether he had experienced a stroke or heart attack. Even after he was carried off of the plane, we still sat there
for quite awhile. The original "short" stop turned into about 1-1/2 hours.
When we finally pushed back from the gate & were in the air, the pilot apologized profusely for the unavoidable delay. He
said that since the stop had taken longer than expected, those passengers who needed to make connections in Atlanta would
miss their flights but would automatically be booked on the next flight out. You could almost hear the moans & groans
throughout the airplane of everyone who was being inconvenienced by the unexpected stop. Then the pilot did 1 of the
classiest things I have personally ever seen or heard anyone do. He spoke into the intercom & said, "Ladies &
gentlemen, I thought you might be interested in one bit of information. The elderly gentleman who was taken off
the plane was a Marine in WWII. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor & it was signed by President Harry
Truman in 1945." The pilot went on to say, "I realize we have all been inconvenienced today. However, in light of
the fact that this gentleman was a war hero & was inconvenienced for 4 years of his life in order that we might
experience the freedoms we enjoy today, I thought you all should know that." Immediately the airplane was filled
with applause. Everyone was cheering & so pleased to know the gentleman had been cared for in a way that was
fitting & appropriate. As we continued to fly, I thought to myself, "Isn't that interesting? We were concerned
we were inconvenienced for a couple of hours yet, this gentleman's entire life was interrupted & inconvenienced
for over 4 years while he went & fought in a war to protect the freedoms & values we love & hold dear in this
country today." I breathed a prayer for the gentleman & blessed him for all he had done to help us understand
what freedom is all about.
In my current role as Executive Director of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs, I am in contact with
Veterans of all types on a daily basis. On rare occasions, among the group is a recipient of the Medal of Honor
(there are only about 120 of them alive today!).
A week ago, I attended the Change of Command for the Commander, U.S. Special Operations Command, headquartered
at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. We had THREE Medal of Honor wearers there. All three were recognized by
name, and received a standing ovation by the 3000 celebrants in the Tampa Convention Center……including the U.S.
Secretary of Defense.
One was my friend, Lieutenant Colonel Ron Ray, U.S. Army (Retired), a native Floridian, whom I got to know in
the early 70s when I was President of the Kiwanis Club of Tampa, and Colonel Ray was a student at the University
of Tampa. I had him address our Club, and we have stayed in touch ever since.
All of them exemplify the ultimate in service above self, where their survival has been at stake, in armed
combat with enemies of our Nation. Very special Americans, indeed.
/s/ LeRoy Collins, Jr.