LOCAL ORGANIZATIONS COLLABORATE TO DEVELOP HONOR WAGON FOR FALLEN VETERANS RETURNING TO PITTSBURGH INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
- UNVEILING CEREMONY TO BE HELD AT 1:30 P.M., FRIDAY , NOVEMBER 8, IN MOON TOWNSHIP
MOON TOWNSHIP, PA (November 6, 2013) – Allegheny County Airport Authority employees, the Vietnam Veterans of Beaver County, and four local businesses, have joined forces to honor fallen members of the United States military upon their return to Pittsburgh International Airport with the development of a custom Honor Wagon.
The Honor Wagon, a refurbished baggage cart, was developed in response to the concerns of three airport authority employees about how caskets carrying fallen veterans were transferred from an aircraft to a hearse.
Mark Chamovitz, Duty Manager, Airfield Operations; Jim Moorhead, Supervisor, Field Maintenance; and John Wakeley, Laborer, Field Maintenance, recognized the need to provide a more dignified means of transporting remains. Recent changes in military procedure require that the ceremony for off-loading a casket be moved from planeside to a nearby cargo building. That change resulted in caskets being loaded onto typical baggage carts.
“That situation didn’t go over well with any of us,” said Chamovitz. “We felt it was nice to move the ceremony indoors, where the weather wouldn’t be a problem and the family receiving the casket would have privacy. But, we didn’t feel that it was very respectful that the casket was being treated like another piece of luggage.”
Chamovitz and Moorhead located a baggage cart that the airport authority donated to be refurbished. Meanwhile, through his association with the Vietnam Veterans of Beaver County, Wakeley contacted several local businesses which donated time and resources to transform the cart into an Honor Wagon.
Work on the cart included removing the center shelf, adding rollers to load the casket, and etching glass siding with logos of all branches of the military. Hall Industries, Beachem’s Sandblasting Service, Paff Custom Welding, and Signs by Sam, either performed the work or donated time, materials, space or money to make the refurbish program possible.
“One of the great things about this is that no matter the weather, the flag draped casket will be visible at all times,” said Wakeley. “I think we’re a little overwhelmed. We had no idea when this started how it would grow, and how emotional it would become. Hopefully, other airports will learn about this, and those that may be in a similar situation, will be able to follow suit.”
The Honor Wagon will be unveiled at a ceremony at 1:30 p.m., Friday, November 8, 2013 at the Airport Heavy Equipment Building (Number 312), Cargo Road, Moon Township. Directions: Follow 376 Northwest to Hangar Road; turn left at the traffic light, at next intersection turn left on to Cargo Road and follow to top of hill. Airport Authority employees will direct attendees to parking location.