The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

June 23, 2013

TAMKO corporate planes shuttle wounded veterans as part of national effort

JOPLIN, Mo. — TAMKO Building Products’ corporate pilots spend most of their time shuttling executives to and from job sites and business meetings, but when possible, they also fly wounded veterans and their families across the country as volunteers for the Veterans Airlift Command.

TAMKO pilots recently flew U.S. Army Spc. Eric Lund between Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, and Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, where Lund said he has been meeting with an arm transplant team.

On May 20, 2012, Lund’s vehicle was hit by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. He was one of 10 members of the Michigan Army National Guard injured in the attack. Lund lost both arms above the elbow, suffered a fractured hip, femur and vertebrae, and underwent facial reconstruction. Four other soldiers in his unit also suffered serious injuries.

Lund, speaking by telephone last week from his home in Ludington, Mich., said such flights are “very important” to veterans and their families.

In his case, he said prosthetic limbs make it difficult to fly commercially.

“Pulling out my ID all the time, checking tickets, checking bags ... it’s really hard,” said the 30-year-old veteran.

But with private planes, there is less waiting, fewer delays and hassles, and it is easier to accommodate veterans by removing plane seats, for example.

The Veterans Airlift Command was founded in 2006 by Walt Fricke, who was wounded during the Vietnam War, to provide free transportation known as Hero Flights to wounded veterans and their loved ones. When wounded veterans or their family members have a travel need, the VAC sends out a request for open seats on private and corporate airplanes.

Many of the veterans have mobility issues and find commercial flights uncomfortable or impractical, Fricke said.

TAMKO’s first VAC flight was in May 2008 for Matthew Miles, 36, and his wife Maria, 35. Miles lost his left leg and suffered other severe injuries when his vehicle hit an IED in 2007 in Afghanistan.

Since then, the Joplin company has provided about a half-dozen Hero Flights, according to TAMKO officials.

David C. Humphreys, president and CEO of TAMKO, said in a statement: “TAMKO supports the Veterans Airlift Command to do our small part helping these men and women who were injured in service to our country. It is difficult for them to travel on commercial airlines and to be subjected to TSA patdowns. We’re trying to make their lives easier after all that they have done for us.”

Humphreys also noted that a number of combat veterans work at TAMKO.

Maria Miles said her mother came to stay with the children while she was at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C., with her husband. When it came time to return home, TAMKO provided a flight to a small airport in Manhattan, Kan., that was only 18 miles from the family’s home. The smaller airport and nearby location made it much easier than flying commercial into Kansas City International Airport.

“I can never repay what they did for us,” Maria Miles said. “It was amazing. I will always appreciate it.”

Five years later, she said her husband’s recovery is going well. She was so taken with the program that she stayed in touch with Fricke and his daughter, Jen Salvati, who also works for the Veterans Airlift Command as operations manager.

When they heard that Maria Miles was looking for a job, they set her up as a mission coordinator, a job she does from the family’s home in San Antonio.

The complications for veterans and their families when they travel are many, Maria Miles said. Some have external braces and other medical devices that are bulky. Others travel with intravenous equipment. Many times, because the veterans might be in a wheelchair or on crutches, they are unable to help carry luggage or push strollers.

She also said amputees — especially those in wheelchairs — are often targeted by screeners at commercial airports, and sometimes that can become invasive. That’s where the private flights come in so handy.

“America cares, and this is a real way of showing it,” Fricke added.

7,500 passengers

WALT FRICKE, founder of the Veterans Airlift Command, said the program so far has transported 7,500 passengers about 3.5 million miles. He said the group has 2,300 volunteer pilots and aircraft owners who offer their services.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Ballot issues dominate GOP event

    A maze of campaign yard signs lined the sidewalk at Big Spring Park, leading up to a line of local candidates for public office with rolled-up sleeves shaking hands with potential voters.

    July 24, 2014

  • Mike Pound: It’s time for some football

    The arrests, the announced suspensions and the contract disputes can mean only one thing: Somebody is ready for some football.

    July 24, 2014

  • Joplin district pursues more money for construction projects

    The Joplin Board of Education is proceeding with the sale of $8 million in lease certificates of participation to fund construction projects at the district’s three major rebuild projects.

    July 25, 2014

  • Cherokee County audit shows $23,000 missing

    A special audit of the Cherokee County Treasurer’s Office for 2011 and 2012 shows more than $23,000 is missing from county bank accounts, Cherokee County Commissioner Richard Hilderbrand said Friday.

    July 25, 2014

  • Landfill opponents seek answers

    The Baxter Springs High School auditorium was filled with hundreds of Cherokee County residents Thursday night as Galena city officials answered questions and listened to comments regarding a proposed landfill at Riverton.

    July 24, 2014

  • Hanaway says leadership missing under Gov. Nixon

    When Republican gubernatorial hopeful Catherine Hanaway walked into the banquet room at Granny Shaffer’s Restaurant this week, she was greeted by some of Joplin’s more prominent business leaders.

    July 24, 2014

  • Neosho athletes bring home silver

    For 19-year-old Dominque Dechant, it was the trip of a lifetime. She and three other athletes from Neosho traveled last month to Newark, New Jersey, as part of the Missouri Special Olympics girls basketball team.

    July 24, 2014

  • r072414msw.jpg VIDEO: Carterville company expands to third generation

    What began as Ray “Mac” McCoy’s side job in his home 55 years ago has grown not only in square footage and reach, but in generations. This summer, a third generation took over the reins of MSW — Mac’s Specialty Woodwork — that now exceeds 90,000 square feet and creates custom furniture for chain restaurants coast to coast.

    July 24, 2014 2 Photos

  • Shrine Bowl band, cheerleaders, players arrive in Pittsburg this week

    Band members were the first Kansas Shrine Bowl participants to arrive at Pittsburg State University this week.

    July 24, 2014

  • Galena council rescinds landfill decisions

    The Galena City Council voted Wednesday to rescind decisions it made two weeks ago regarding a proposed landfill at Riverton.

    July 23, 2014

Must Read
Sports
Photos


Facebook
Poll

A new provision by the U.S. Department of Agriculture allows qualifying districts with high percentages of students on food assistance to allow all students to eat free breakfasts and lunches. Would you agree with this provision?

Yes
No
     View Results
Opinion
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter