Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and if this story is any indication, there’s a hell of a lot of people out there who don’t know what they should be grateful for.Stewart Perry and his wife, who are the Gold Star family of a California soldier slain in Afghanistan were flying on American Airlines, taking a flight on Monday from Sacramento to Philadelphia, with a transfer stop in Phoenix to receive the remains of their son, Sgt. John Perry. The flight to Phoenix was running 45 minutes late, and the crew began to fear the Gold Star family would miss the connecting flight. At that point, they made an announcement for passengers to remain seated to let a “special military family” leave the plane first.
That’s when things got ugly.
As the Chicago Tribune reported: Perry said several passengers in first class booed, complaining that it was “baloney” and that they paid first-class fares. He said he doesn’t know if the passengers from Sacramento knew there was a Gold Star family on board or whether people sitting in the coach section complained.
“It was just disgusting behavior from people in first class; it was terrible to see,” Perry said.Perry, 30, and another American soldier died of injuries inflicted by an improvised explosive device Nov. 12 (the day after Veteran’s Day) inside Bagram Airfield. Both men stopped that suicide bomber from reaching a veteran’s 5k event in Afghanistan, saving potentially hundreds of lives in the process.
The husband and father of two young children died a hero, his father said. “He made a decision that saved a lot of people,” he said. “I was told that he was found protecting a female soldier. … He didn’t get to live a full life, but he lived.”
Whether or not the first class passengers were aware there was a Gold Star family retrieving the remains of their son should be irrelevant. If the captain announces that a “special military family” has to leave, would anyone seriously think it’s because they just want special treatment? Of course not. Still, Mr. Perry is taking the high road, urging compassion in the aftermath.
According to Army Times, the Gold Star father said that regardless of whether the passengers knew the reason for the family’s urgency, they should have been more tolerant. “Generally, as Americans, we need to be more compassionate to each other and to understand and listen and just stay calm,” he said.Perry said people also need to be more respectful of the military. “I’m a civilian now so I can tolerate it and even say something back if I want to,” he said. “If a military guy does that, he’s in big trouble. They don’t need that kind of grief.”
Well, good for him. I doubt those vile enough to boo him would ever react in a similar situation the way he did.
[Note: This post was authored by Matt Palumbo. Follow him on Twitter @MattPalumbo12]