Honor Wagon to ferry vets' remains at Pittsburgh International Airport
When Pittsburgh International Airport workers John Wakeley and Mark Chamovitz realized a change in military policy meant returning caskets would be transported from planes to a hangar to be met by family members, they didn't approve of using an old baggage cart.
“When the (military) told me they were going to put them on a regular baggage cart, it sent shivers down my spine. That's not a dignified way to end a fallen hero's journey,” said Chamovitz, 55, of Mt. Lebanon, an airport operations duty manager. “(The carts) are not in the greatest shape.”
The pair came up with a plan to refurbish a baggage cart into something to honor the remains of fallen soldiers. On Friday, airport officials plan to show off the Honor Wagon during a special ceremony. The Honor Wagon will escort the remains of any military member returning to Pittsburgh International.
Previously, returning caskets were loaded into a hearse on the tarmac while family members watched. Chamovitz said the military wanted to move that ceremony inside a hangar, where the ceremony could be private, away from moving aircraft and out of the elements.
The airport donated a baggage cart, and Wakeley, a veteran, contacted his fellow members of the Beaver County Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 862 to help with the refurbishing. Several businesses got involved.
“I just feel strongly that fallen soldiers deserve better than being in the back of a pickup or on a raggedy, old belt. This will give them a little bit of honor when they come back,” said David McLaughlin, 50, of Butler, a veteran and plant manager of Ellwood City-based Hall Industries Inc. that helped build the Honor Wagon.
The refurbished cart is nearly unrecognizable. Its hollowed center has room for a casket to be placed on rollers. Plexiglass-like windows on both sides protect the casket while allowing it to be seen. The exterior is adorned with logos from all branches of the armed services and has 13 spear points on each side, signifying the original colonies.
The words “Never Forgotten” are inscribed on the rear.
“The flag-draped casket will be visible, and it doesn't matter what the weather is,” said Wakeley, 55, of Hookstown. “We just thought it was the right thing to do.”
Bobby Kerlik is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7886 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Western Pennsylvania drivers at bottom of insurer’s safety rankings
- Mystery continues to surround Hill District slaying
- Police looking for person who shot man in face with BB gun
- Overnight lane closures announced for both the Liberty and Fort Pitt tunnels
- Newsmaker: John Burke
- Corbett uninvited to labor parade over LCB issue
- Penn Hills schools’ transit director resigns
- Caring businessman charmed family, community
- Menace worms its way into North Park, causing destruction along the way
- Newsmaker: Dallas Jackson
- North Allegheny rowing coach charged with having sex with student