A disabled U.S. Marine in full dress was treated "shamefully" by security and TSA personnel recently when they demanded that he remove his medal-adorned jacket – which included the Puple Heart – because he was wearing "too much metal."
Retired Cpl. Nathan Kemnitz, who was severely wounded by a roadside bomb in Iraq in 2004, was traveling to the California state Capitol building in Sacramento for a ceremony honoring him as Veteran of the Year in his legislative district when he reportedly was humiliated in two separate incidents.
First, security guards at the Capitol building asked him to remove his decorated uniform top "because he was wearing too much metal." The request grew into a heated exchange and Kemnitz said the guards were rude and unapologetic.
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"At some places I'm treated like royalty and at some like a terrorist. There's got to be something in the middle," Kemnitz told MilitaryTimes.com.
Later, a TSA screener at Sacramento International Airport asked Kemnitz to raise his arms over his head for the full-body scanner, but because of his injury, Kemnitz couldn't comply.
"My right arm doesn't work. It's a lot of hassle for me to do that," Kemnitz said he told the screener.
The agent then subjected Kemnitz to further screening, looking under his medals, in his waistband, and swabbing his shoes for explosives.
"What does a uniform and heroism represent if our own citizens — in this case employees of the TSA and security personnel — have no regard for them?" wrote Kemnitz's escort, Patricia Martin, in a letter to Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki following the incidents. "I feel so strongly that you need to know just how shamefully even a Purple Heart recipient/disabled veteran can be treated by some TSA and security employees."
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TSA issued a statement Monday about the incident.
"Our intent is to treat all injured service members and veterans with the dignity they deserve," the statement read. "As always, all passengers with disabilities and medical conditions are eligible for screening procedures sensitive to their particular disability, medical condition, or other unique medical circumstance."
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