Delta Crew Humiliates Double-Amputee Marine Combat Vet

Friday, 14 Dec 2012 03:03 PM

By Michael Mullins

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A Delta Airlines crew’s rough treatment of a double-amputee Marine combat veteran left him in tears and enraged fellow passengers.

The incident occurred on a Delta flight from Atlanta to Washington last Sunday, nearly a year to the day that an improvised explosive device blew off both legs of Marine Cpl. Christian Brown, 29, as he led a patrol in Helmand Province in Afghanistan.

Brown was squeezed into a narrow aviation wheelchair and pushed clumsily toward the plane’s back row, being “bumped up against stationary aisle seats as he was wheeled through the aircraft," according to a complaint obtained by The Washington Post that was sent to Delta by retired Army Col. Nickey Knighton, who was on the same flight. "[He] was obviously humiliated by being paraded through the aircraft and was visibly upset. I touched Brown on his shoulders and asked if he was okay. Tears ran down his face, but he did not cry out loud."

A former helicopter pilot with nearly 30 years of service, Knighton happened to be seated in the same back row as Brown. Knighton added that she couldn’t understand why Brown was stuffed in the rear of the plane rather than be stationed near the front where the exits were in case of an emergency.

During the incident, Brown was suffering with a “104-degree fever” and “shaking,” a military buddy who was traveling with him told Brown's mother.

Knighton wasn't the only military veteran on the flight who witnessed Brown’s treatment by the Delta crew.

“I have been flying with Delta for a gazillion years and this crew treated Chris worse than you’d treat anything, not even anybody," retired Army Lt. Col. Keith Gafford told the Post. "I did 27 years in the military. I have seen a lot of things and have seen a lot of guys die, but I have never seen a Marine cry.”

“What the kid said was, ‘I have given everything that I can give and this is the way I am being treated? This is how I will be treated for the rest of my life?’” added Gafford, who completed two tours in Iraq.

According to Gafford, Brown’s suffering became more apparent to others as the plane still sat on the ground. He said two passengers in the first class section up front offered to switch seats with Brown, “but the flight attendant said we have to go. How many times have we sat on the tarmac for 45 minutes? You could close the door and still make an adjustment.”

Delta spokesman Michael R. Thomas said the airline was investigating the incident.

“The story in no way reflects either Delta’s standard operating procedure or the very high regard we hold for our nation’s service members," said Thomas. "We are sorry for the difficulties that transpired and are investigating this event to determine the appropriate next steps.”

Brown, who was a strapping 6-feet-tall when he enlisted, has spent the last year learning to walk with two successive pairs of prosthetic legs. He said he plans to continue a career with the Marines, possibly as a classroom instructor, though he has aspirations to become a motivational speaker later in life.

“Hell, no,” the wounded warrior replied when asked by a Post writer if he would ever fly with Delta again, the wounded warrior responded

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