Eight soldiers flying home from Iraq for two weeks of R&R flew in style instead of coach after first-class passengers offered to swap seats with them.
“The soldiers were very, very happy, and the whole aircraft had a different feeling,” flight attendant Lorrie Gammon told The Dallas Morning News in Thursday’s editions.
The June 29 seat-swap on American Airlines Flight 866 from Atlanta to Chicago started before boarding, when a businessman approached one of the soldiers and traded his seat.
Update: Reader Peter send a link to the original Dallas Morning News story on the flight here, which includes this great photo:
Meanwhile, back on Bainbridge Island, Tamar Gilson and her son, Jason, the 23-year-old military veteran who was booed and mocked by Kerry supporters while marching in his local July 4th parade, send the following notes along (Tamar also includes an e-mail address where the family can be reached):
4th of July Parade crowd degrades an 23 year old Iraqi Disabled Veteran!
In the year 2004, where in the United States can a 23 year old Disabled Veteran of the Iraqi War march in a parade and be called a murderer, baby killer, booed and cursed at through out the parade route?
Only in Washington State at Bainbridge Island’s 4th of July parade.
The reason for this mob style degrading was simply because my son had chosen to proudly wear his military awarded metals upon his blazer while holding a small sign that said Veterans for President Bush? Even one of the announcer in the parade mockingly singled out my son and said in a sarcastic voice over a loud speaker, “And what exactly are you a veteran of?”
How shocked and saddened I was on Sunday by the total lack of respect and decency I witnessed first hand at this parade. I have to admit when my family and I were asked to come and march in the parade I felt a surge of pride and was greatly honored to be able to participate in such an event.
I knew that Bainbridge Island has many who do not wish to have our current President re-elected but never in my wildest dreams did I believe that so many would stoop so low as to degrade mock and cuss at my 8, 11 and 13 year old children and call my 23 year old Disabled Veteran son a murderer and baby killer.
When I picked up the local paper on Monday I was stunned to see a glowing report of the parade with not a mention of the shameful way in which many acted towards our group.
My son was 22 when he willingly answered the call to go to war and risk his very life, yet he was treated as a criminal by the very people he has sworn to protect and defend.
Last year in one of the letters our son wrote us of his concerns while he was over in Iraq. He stated,
“I really miss being in the states. Some of the American public have no idea how much freedom cost and who the people are that pay that awful price. I think sometimes people just see us as nameless and faceless and not really as humans: It’s just all so disheartening sometimes. A good portion of us are actually scared that when we come home, for those of us who make it back, that there will be protesters waiting for us and that is scary. I miss home so much.”
Well I wrote him right back and assured him that his fears were nothing more that a dream and that this would never happen in the country I know and love. I told him to hold his head high knowing that America loved him, supported him and appreciates his service to our country.
Well on Sunday that all changed for him. As he was booed, cursed at and called a murderer and baby killer you could see the pain and total betrayal he felt. I could say nothing to comfort him except that I loved him. His life will be forever changed because of the thoughtless words and actions of many who appear to care nothing for their fellow Americans and even less for those who serve our country.
The sad part to all of this is that I have always taught my children that a lesson is repeated until it is learned. I shudder to think that people have not learned the horrible lesson in history by how the Vietnam Veterans were treated when they returned home.
Where have our morals, principals and decency gone? I am heart sick, yet, ever and more determined to stand up for what is right.
For who will if we won’t?
My name is Jason. Over the past few days I have been apprehensive about writing this letter as I have been trying to find the right words to express my gratitude for the enormous amount of supportive e-mails and phone calls I have received thanking me for my service and expressing your dismay at the ignorance of many individuals who booed at yelled at me and my fellow americans who showed support for President Bush on Bainbridge Island. I am not sure about how each of you heard about our experience, but I do know that the response has been very wonderful and even a bit overwhelming, however very welcome.
Thank you all so much.
P.S. Remember to VOTE!
Update II: Robert L. Jamieson Jr. reports that the mayor of Bainbridge Island has apologized to Gilson:
“I called him Monday night,” Mayor Darlene Kordonowy told me yesterday. “I felt badly about his experience. He was distressed and distraught about what happened when I talked to him.”
Interestingly, this quotation does not include an actual apology. I wonder if the mayor said “I’m sorry” or something to that effect.
Jamieson, for his part, calls the treatment of Gilson “unconscionable”–but hedges that conclusion with his assertion that Bainbridge Islanders are no less tolerant than conservatives in other parts of the country. Jamiseon, the P-I columnist, wrote:
I am willing to bet my last shiny penny that if Gilson were marching in a Republican stronghold — say, Midland, Texas — and carrying a pro-Kerry sign, he would be barbecued faster than a longhorn steer.
Update III: A couple of readers in the Comments section believe the above quote (“I am willing to bet my last shiny penny…” was from Bainbridge Island’s mayor. That is incorrect. The quote is from Robert Jamieson, the Post-Intelligencer columnist.blog comments powered by Disqus
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