Struggling with a sore throat from springtime pollen, Tom Greul had his doubts about playing the bagpipes at another military dignified transfer ceremony this week at BWI Marshall Airport.
But once he heard Monday evening’s somber formalities were for Makai Sean Cummings, the 20-year-old airman and Baltimore City College graduate killed in an early morning hit-and-run last week in Virginia, he had one thought on his mind.
“This kid deserves it,” Greul said.
A Southwest plane from Raleigh, North Carolina, transporting Cummings back to Maryland was greeted with arches of water from firehoses Monday evening, as the young airman, who was described as being loveable, driven and inquisitive, returned home for the last time. An honor guard ushered his flag-draped casket off of the plane to allow his family to greet him on the final journey.
Cummings died on the scene of a hit-and-run crash in a suburb of Richmond, Virginia, early last Monday. Virginia State Police found him lying on the roadway of Interstate 295 and believe he was struck while changing a tire on his car on the shoulder.
“To lose a child, 20 years of age, full of promise, the pain is unthinkable,” said Jonathan Bryce, a family friend who served as a spokesperson for Cummings’ family.
Bryce said that Cummings’ family is leaning into religion and “trusting that God knows best.”
He described Cummings as being “inquisitive and uber-intelligent,” enjoying reading a wide range of Black history books, on top of his involvement in sports and other pastimes with his brothers.
A City College graduate, Cummings played lacrosse for the Knights until the athletics program was canceled his senior year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
He was accepted into Morehouse College but instead chose to enlist in the Air Force, where he was stationed at the Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, North Carolina. He was the first of his family to join the military, and his household held pride in seeing the young man advance through the ranks, Bryce said.
Cummings was assigned to the 335th Fighter Generation Squadron, in which he worked as a journeyman on electronic systems used on F-15 fighter aircraft, according to the Goldsboro installation.
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“He was a lot of people’s first introduction to the base,” said Staff Sgt. Timothy Lemack, a close friend of Cummings who served as his escort during the transfer.
Lemack, who serves in the same unit as Cummings, remembered his friend’s “baby face” and willingness to help others.
Monday evening’s dignified transfer ceremony was one of three this week for the “BWI family,” a group of airport staff, honor guards and community groups who perform such services at the direction of former Maryland Transportation Authority Police Officer Mike Dunn.
Jerry White, an Air Force veteran who now works in airport security, assists Dunn with arranging the honor guards at the transfers. Having served on Air Force honor guards, he said he started helping about a decade ago after seeing a less-ceremonial dignified transfer there.
“What we do for them now still isn’t enough,” White said.
A viewing for Cummings was held Tuesday at Vaughn Greene Funeral Services in Randallstown. A homegoing celebration will be held from 10 to 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at The Church of the Redeemed of the Lord in Wilson Park.
Cummings will receive military honors at his internment service scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Wednesday at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens. The cemetery in Timonium will honor him with a moment of silence during their annual Memorial Day service at 10:00 a.m. on May 29. He will receive full honors at next year’s observance.