This the first place award-winning picture from the "Picture of the Year - International" competition:
Both images courtesy Todd Heisler - The Rocky Mountain News.
When 2nd Lt. James Cathey's body arrived at the Reno Airport, Marines climbed into the cargo hold of the plane and draped the flag over his casket as passengers watched the family gather on the tarmac. During the arrival of another Marine's casket last year at Denver International Airport, Major Steve Beck described the scene as one of the most powerful in the process: "See the people in the windows? They'll sit right there in the plane, watching those Marines. You gotta wonder what's going through their minds, knowing that they're on the plane that brought him home," he said. "They're going to remember being on that plane for the rest of their lives. They're going to remember bringing that Marine home. And they should."
This an email/letter from someone onboard that plane.
Last week, while traveling to Chicago on business, I noticed a Marine sergeant traveling with a folded flag, but did not put two and two together. After we'd boarded our flight, I turned to the sergeant, who'd been invited to sit in First Class (and was seated across from me), and>inquired if he was heading home.
"No," he responded.
"Heading out?" I asked.
"No. I'm escorting a soldier home."
"Going to pick him up?"
"No. He is with me right now. He was killed in Iraq. I'm taking him home to his family."
The realization of what he had been asked to do hit me like a punch to the gut. It was an honor for him. He told me that, although he didn't know the soldier, he had delivered the news of his passing to the soldier's family and felt as if he did know them after so many conversations in so few days. I turned back to him, extended my hand, and said, "Thank you.
Thank you for doing what you do so my family and I can do what we do."
Upon landing in Chicago the pilot stopped short of the gate and made the following announcement over the intercom.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to note that we have had he honor of having Sergeant Steeley of theUnited States Marine Corps join us on this flight. He is escorting a fallen comrade back home to his family. I ask that you please remain in your seats when we open the forward door [so as to] allow Sergeant Steeley to deplane and receive his fellow soldier. We will then turn off the seat belt sign."
Without a sound, all went as requested. I noticed the sergeant saluting the casket as it was brought off the plane, and his action made me realize that I am proud to be an American. So here's a public thank-you to our military for doing what you do so we can live the way we do.
Stuart Margel, Washington, D.C.
If this does NOT strike you as very powerful and very moving, then I'm sorry. It should, this picture, along with the caption and letter are two of the most powerful things I've ever read.