Special plane modified for fallen Marine’s return home

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ST. LOUIS– Thousands of people came out to honor Marine Lance Corporal Jared Schmitz when his remains returned home to St. Louis yesterday. Among the patriotic sites and crowds of people, a specially modified plane was part of the homecoming.

A Kalitta Charters plane carried Schmitz’s remains from Dover Air Force Base to Lambert St. Louis Airport.

Barry Birurakis, General Manager of Kalitta Charter out of Ypsilanti, Mich., says the company has been taking part in the Dignified Transfers for nearly two decades.

Katlitta Charters will also help in the return of remains for the other 12 military members killed in the blast in Afghanistan.

The airplane used has seats removed on the inside to provide a respectful interior for the casket. There is a side door that allows crews to be able to remove the casket on arrival in a respectful manner.

There are seats inside and almost always one is accompanied by a member of the deceased’s unit. That person will accompany the body all the way back home.

If other seats are available inside, sometimes family members will accompany the body home from Dover, but that is not always the case.

Kalitta Charters has been bidding on and awarded the Dignified Transfer contract through the U.S. Department of Defense since the beginning of the second Gulf War in 2003.

The flight is booked by the Department of Defense and handled by Kalitta and its crew.

Birurakis says some of the people who fly the flights are former military and are overwhelmingly proud of having the honor to transport these brave men and women home.

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