Magazine article The New American

Wounded Warriors

Magazine article The New American

Wounded Warriors

Article excerpt

"I spent six months in a hospital 700 miles bat injuries sustained while flying a helicopter in Vietnam. My healing began in earnest when my family was able to gather the resources to make a trip to visit me." Little did Walt Fricke realize that those injuries would help determine his postmilitary mission over 30 years later.

When Fricke retired from his mortgage-industry position in 2006, though, and was facing the decision of what to do with his retirement, he recalled that time and how important it was to have his family near him for his recovery--and how difficult it was for them to get to the hospital. His thoughts turned to present-day wounded soldiers, and he realized that they would be facing the same difficulties that he did so long ago.

MSNBC reported on June 22 that what started out simply as a desire to use his airplane to fly families to the local VA hospital has evolved into a nationwide network of pilots and aircraft owners. Today, Veteran's Airlift Command (VAC) has almost 1,000 volunteers who fly soldiers home for convalescence leave, transport family members to see hospitalized veterans, or fulfill any other "compassionate" need.

The organization's first mission was for a wounded young Marine who needed to get from Florida to North Carolina to pick up his Purple Heart. The trip via a commercial airline, using a donated frequent-flyer ticket, took 13 hours, and the poor soldier arrived for the awards ceremony completely exhausted. However, through a referral to Fricke's service from the Department of Defense, the vet was able to make the return trip in a private plane in only two hours. …

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