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Veterans Airlift Command Flies Wounded Soldier Home for the Holidays

November 24, 2011

Cessna Mustang 'American-Patriot'A recent cross-country trip to bring a wounded soldier home for Thanksgiving could not have happened without the efforts of the Veterans Airlift Command (VAC) and the generosity of volunteers across the United States.

Private First Class Cory Doane was badly injured by a roadside bomb on July 3, 2011, barely three months after being deployed to Afghanistan. His time since has been spent undergoing multiple surgeries in Army hospitals, and learning to walk using a prosthetic leg. Following treatment overseas, Cory was transferred to the New Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD in August.

Even with Cory back on U.S. soil, he was still 2,200 miles away from home in Portland, OR. “When I found out Cory had been injured, I told his mother [Rhonda] about her options to get him home,” explained Kimberlie Miller, Chief Pilot and Airplane Manager for Jynair LLC and a volunteer pilot for the VAC. “When he was ready and the military had granted Cory leave, the VAC was ready with options.”

The Veterans Airlift Command coordinates free air transportation to wounded veterans and their families, often for medical purposes, through a national network of volunteer aircraft owners and pilots. Special emphasis is placed on veterans of current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Miller said Cory’s November 18 flight occurred without a hitch. “A TBM owner picked Cory and Rhonda up at Dulles, and flew them to Mosby, MO,” she explained, “where my husband and I met him to fly them home to Portland. My boss, who's a veteran himself, donated the use of his Citation CJ3.”

Besides free transportation, Miller stated VAC flights offer a much-needed boost to morale. “The Army tells you where to go to receive care, and that's often away from the patient's family,” she said. “A solider may get very depressed when going through rehab alone, without family or friends around to support them. It is very important for them to see people who care about them, and help them through it.

“Many of them are physically incapable of flying on the airlines,” she added. “Going through security is next to impossible for recent amputees, until they have healed and become more familiar with their prosthetics. It can be belittling, and degrading.”

Cory will spend the Thanksgiving holiday at home in Portland, but he will need to return to Walter Reed soon after to continue his rehabilitation. The VAC will once again be ready to help. “He probably could have gotten longer leave, but he needs to go back to therapy,” Miller explained. “So we will fly him halfway, and another Citation will meet us halfway to fly him back to DC.

“Wounded soldiers don't want recognition,” she concluded. “A simple thank you is nice. And every one of them is in awe that someone would donate their aircraft to help them.”