Almost everyone knows the 21-Gun Salute. The moving tribute to a fallen soldier or head of state often brings us to tears, each shot hammering home the point that the nation has lost another hero. Few things in this life are more emotionally wrenching than seeing a flagged draped casket descend into the ground; a soldier being laid to rest after making the greatest sacrifice.
In times of war there's seemingly no end to the casualties. Long lists of injured or dead soldiers exist, but are rarely seen by the public at large. There are few parades for the safe return of combatants, even fewer for the homecomings of the deceased. While we honor our fallen on holidays with BBQs and movie premieres, the military has lesser known ways of paying tribute.
An Angel Flight is a code for a flight home carrying the casket of a fallen soldier, marine or sailor. This is an all-too-often occurrence, and seeing a casket wrapped in a flag is heartbreaking. The care and respect that is paid to the fallen is a testament to how much those fighting overseas care about one another.
The Angel Flight isn't just a somber return home though, while in the air the plane, usually a C-130 transport, will offer its own salute, and it's truly breathtaking to behold - it's called an Angel Flare.
See a video of the Angel Flare on the next page
The C-130 Hercules is about as sturdy as they come, but this airborne giant is capable of one of the most touching tributes that exists. It comes equipped with flares designed to counteract enemy rockets, but these flares also can be used to say goodbye, and thank you.
Launching flares straight down and off to the side, the C-130 Angel Flare creates a breathtaking drawing in the sky.
The design looks just like an angel, a perfect memorial to the fallen one coming home. While beautiful, it's also a sad reminder of what's at stake each time we send our men and women into battle.
You can see a C-130 create an Angel Flare here: