At Alaska Airlines, a final tribute to the fallen
Alone on the airfield, one cart is reserved for heroes.
With blue paint, red carpet and American flag curtains, the customized cart carries the remains of fallen service members along their journey home to their final resting place.
It’s the most visible component of the Alaska Airlines Fallen Soldier Program, which ensures the remains are treated with respect and dignity upon arrival.
In May 2018, Alaska’s ninth cart was delivered to San Francisco International Airport.
Today, Alaska Airlines has dedicated carts in Anchorage, Seattle, Portland, San Diego, Los Angeles, Honolulu, Washington, D.C., Dallas and San Francisco. While the carts remain under Alaska’s care at each of these locations, they are available for any airline to use when transporting remains.
Brian Bowden, one of the original creators of the program and line aircraft technician, says the cart program was a way to show support and respect for those who serve, as well as their families.
“We always get asked ‘Why do you do this?’ For us it’s simple: freedom isn’t free. It comes at a price,” said Bowden. “We are just trying to have soldiers’ backs and provide them with this service on their final journey home, so their loved ones know that people cared about what they did. If the family and military escort knows that we cared, then we did our job.”
Alaska’s Fallen Soldier Program
Alaska maintenance employees deliver the cart with a special “pony express” escort of motorcycle Patriot Guard riders. They are greeted by representatives from the airport police and fire departments and USO volunteers.
At the airport, Alaska’s employees follow the Fallen Soldier Protocols, even wearing special safety vests emblazoned with the Fallen Soldier Program’s name and slogan. With this cart, the program will be complete.
Honoring Those Who Serve
Since the Fallen Soldier program first began in 2011, the group has come up with more ways to help families and loved ones have the best experience possible when a fallen solider comes home, including nine carts, a custom belt loader and an airplane.
In 2016, Alaska created a new plane livery officially called “Honoring those who serve” dedicated to the men and women currently serving in the U.S. military as well as veterans of the armed forces and their families. A crest, to the right of the cargo door, represents our Fallen Soldier Program. The plane is used to transport fallen soldiers flying on Alaska Airlines, as well as for special flights, like our Honor Flights, to help veterans visit memorials in D.C.