His Name Was John

His Name Was John

From Chicken Soup for the Military Wife's Soul

His Name Was John

What do we live for, if not to make life less difficult for each other?

George Eliot

In the airline industry, there is no such thing as a routine day. Anything can happen. Today, it was a mechanical problem with the aircraft. Until a mechanic came on board, we were to remain in the airplane and wait for final word about our departure. Of course, the passengers were not happy about the news.

I was talking with the other flight attendants when I felt a tap on my shoulder. A young woman, perhaps twenty-five years old, was standing before me.

“May I talk to you?” she whispered quietly.

“Of course,” I said to her as I took her arm to sit with her in the empty seats in row one. The look in her eyes told me something was wrong.

“I’m Andrea,” she began. “I’m flying with two friends. We’re Marine Corps wives. My friend, Joanna, is asleep by the window. We’re flying to Denver and then on to New York today. See, Joanna’s husband was killed in Iraq on

Wednesday, and we’re going to his funeral. We just have to get there today.

“We’ve given her two sleeping pills,” she continued. “We thought we’d be in the air for a couple of hours, and she needs to sleep. They got married just a year ago on Valentine’s Day. John and Joanna were the perfect couple. John was gone just two months on his first tour of duty. That’s his Marine Corps sweatshirt she’s wearing to comfort her.”

My heart sank. My mind raced. These girls are going to miss their connections to New York. What can I do? I thought to myself. Out loud, all I said was, “I’m so sorry. Let me see what I can do.”

Nobody was supposed to leave the aircraft, but I asked the captain if I might take the tickets of these three passengers to the gate agent to see if there was something that could be done. Nearly half the passengers had connecting flights, but, when the gate agent heard the story, she set out to get them on another plane.

When I returned to the airplane, I could see Andrea talking to the now-awake Joanna. Her hands held her face as she sobbed. I leaned over the two friends and touched Joanna for the first time. Again, all I could say was, “I’m so sorry.”

The wait was becoming longer and longer. People were getting antsy. I went to row four and said to Joanna, “Come with me.” I took her hand and led her to the front of the aircraft, behind the bulkhead, near the door. I just put my arm around her and held her. She cried. I cried. She held a rosary in her hand, but Andrea had said she was really mad at God right now. I understood. We just stood there, the two of us.

Finally, the gate agent came on board. She’d pulled some strings, made some phone calls and somehow managed to get all three women a direct flight from California to New York. I left Joanna for a moment, got her two friends and all their carry-on items. We deplaned. I’m sure the other passengers wondered why they were allowed off the aircraft. There would be time for explanations later.

I hugged all three women, took a deep breath, wiped the tears from my eyes and went back to the plane.

God, take care of them, I offered before heading back to work. Joanna’s two friends were there for her, just like she’d be there for them if the dice had rolled differently. They were all military wives.

They did leave that airport. They flew on a direct flight to New York City. I learned that they would be met by a military limo and taken to John’s parents’ home in New Jersey. I never talked with them again. I probably never will. But, today, my thoughts are with them. It was a hard day for Joanna. Fortunately, she had her friends to support her as she said her good-bye, one last time, to her young husband, John.

I wish I’d had the honor of meeting John. I know I’ll never forget Joanna.

Mary Catherine Carwile

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