“On Dec. 13, 2011, Marine Lance Cpl. Christian Brown was leading his squad on a foot patrol in Afghanistan’s Helmand province when he stepped on an explosive device that blew off both his legs, one above the knee, the other below his hip,” the Washington Post reported on December 13, 2012. “He also lost part of his right index finger.”
“Last Sunday, almost exactly a year since those grievous injuries forced him to learn to walk on two successive pairs of prosthetic legs, Brown was ‘humiliated’ to the point of tears on a Delta flight from Atlanta to Washington after being clumsily wheeled to the back row of the plane, according to a complaint sent to the airline by an outraged fellow passenger.”
What is outrageous is that when several passengers on the Delta flight offered to give Brown their seats in first class, the Delta crew refused. The Washington Post reports that “Flight attendants insisted no one could move through the cabin because the doors were being closed for takeoff.”
Now you are probably wondering why a financial analyst and banker is taking an interest in wounded veterans. The answer is that my employer, Carrington Holdings, participates in a voluntary network of private companies and individuals known as the Veterans Airlift Command (VAC) that donate our Flight Crew and aircraft to move wounded veterans around the country. The VAC organized and flew over 1500 trips last year and has a growing list of over 1800 planes and pilots that are standing by to help out.
The work of the VAC and its volunteers makes a big difference. A couple of days before Christmas, our flight department at Carrington had the honor of flying Taylor and Danielle Morris home from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to their home in Iowa. Like Chris Brown, Taylor was grievously wounded in battle and required months of rehabilitation before being discharged from military service. You can see their story on YouTube.
Carrington tries to fly 15-20 missions a year and like all the participants in the VAC, supplies flight crew, aircraft, fuel, maintenance and insurance all free of cost to the Veteran and family. We believe that it is our fundamental obligation to take care of those that have sacrificed so much while protecting our freedom.
Unfortunately while the Department of Defense generally does a good job of rehabilitation of wounded veterans, the last detail – namely getting these heroes home safely and with dignity – somehow is missed. We were fortunate to be able to help this brave young man and his beautiful wife travel those last miles home in comfort and dignity that they deserve. Like all veterans, they thank us profusely. Our answer is simple: “No, thank you.”
The VAC tries to serve as many veterans as possible, but the sheer number of young men and women who return from Afghanistan, Iraq and other conflicts missing arms and legs among other severe injuries is still too great for this volunteer effort. Hundreds of wounded veterans are still compelled to fly on commercial airlines and endure the same humiliation and disrespect that Chris Brown suffered at the hands of Delta Airlines.
In fact, when the VAC cannot fulfill a mission directly with a volunteer aircraft and crew, they buy and donate airline tickets to the Veteran and his or her family. You guessed it, even on Delta Airlines in the past – not anymore.
The goal overall though, is to make certain that when commercial airlines have travelers like Chris Brown or the other thousands of severely wounded Veterans, they make generous accommodations available to treat these heroes with the respect and dignity that they deserve. Or they can refer the veterans to organizations like the VAC for more customized transportation. Working together, the commercial airlines and private organizations like the VAC can get the job done; take care of America’s Heroes.
Unfortunately when my colleagues at Carrington and many of the other organizations that participate in the VAC contacted Delta Airlines to complain about the treatment of Chris Brown and to ask for a change in policy, they were rebuffed. They sent us a form letter. But this is a case where we are not going to take no for an answer.
The only reason that the commercial airlines aren't interested in referring and taking care of the veterans is in pursuit of the Almighty Dollar. Then in further pursuit of the fictitious “On Time Departure,” they treat these brave young soldiers like excess cargo. Companies like mine won’t stand for that.
Those of us who travel as part of our jobs rightly hate commercial airlines as a business model, but my colleagues and I vehemently resent their treatment of this special group of passengers. We need your help to get this bad situation fixed. And until Delta Airlines changes its policies, the 2,500 employees of our company will no longer fly on Delta.
When our CEO, Bruce Rose put the policy out to all of our Associates, he was met with overwhelming support and expressions of pride from all corners of the country where we work. Our Company “get’s it”.
Will you join us in expressing your outrage?
First, we want you to contact Delta Airlines CEO Richard H. Anderson and his colleagues. You can click here to get the contact information for Delta (NYSE:DAL). But frankly all of the major airlines need to hear the same message.
If you share our sense of outrage at the way wounded veterans are treated by Delta Airlines and other commercial carriers, then please get involved. Something as simple as forwarding this post to you friends and colleagues is the first step. And you can tell them, as we have, that you will not fly on Delta until they change their policy towards wounded veterans.
Second and perhaps more important, we need to contact members of Congress to demand that they pressure the White House, the Transportation Safety Administration and related federal agencies to make adjustments in law and regulation to change the way that Veterans are treated when they travel on commercial airlines. The VAC web site has a number of horror stories about how wounded vets are humiliated by commercial airlines and the TSA. Perhaps it has been lost on the TSA that these are the same people that are fighting on the front lines for what the TSA is pretending to protect. This situation is outrageous and completely unnecessary, but it will be rectified when we get enough voices to demand change.
The good news is that thanks to the VAC and other organizations, a growing number of private companies and individuals are making their time and resources available to help address the needs of thousands of wounded soldiers coming home from war. We don’t yet have enough volunteers and planes to get the job done privately, but the cases where we can take these brave men and women home in comfort and dignity make the effort worthwhile.
Just look at the photo below of Taylor and Danielle Morris on their way home with our flight crew flying the VAC organized mission last week. This is about honoring our veterans and doing the right thing. Carrington and the VAC can’t do it alone – please help us to take care of the true American Heroes that have sacrificed so much protecting our freedom by making their lives just a little bit easier.