As the Veterans Airlift Command (VAC) readies for its busiest season of the year, it recently completed what it called one of the most “demanding missions in recent memory.” The charitable organization, which arranges flights for post-9/11 combat wounded veterans and their families, recently completed a mission that enabled Marine Sgt. John Peck to attend the wedding of a friend in Texas.
Travel has been difficult for Peck, a quad amputee who General Aviation Manufacturers Association president and CEO Pete Bunce said has “had an amazing number of obstacles thrown in his path toward gaining use of any limbs but remains resilient.” He has been on the arm transplant list at Brigham and Women’s hospital in Boston and must be able to reach Boston within six hours of a donor being found, day or night.
The Edwards Group facilitated the travel, supplying a GIII and crew. Unlike typical missions, which involve either dropping off and/or picking up, for this trip the crew had to stand by in case Peck received a donor call.
Volunteers flew him from Manassas, Va., to Texarkana, Texas, on September 25 and remained the weekend, returning Peck to Manassas on September 27. While he did not get a donor call, Peck was able to enjoy the wedding with the knowledge that he could get to Boston in time for a transplant.
Along with The Edwards Group, the mission received support from APP Jet Center in Manassas, Va., and Tac Air in Texarkana. Additionally the Disabled American Veterans in Little Rock lent a hand with the loading, unloading and transportation of Peck’s power wheelchair.
Peck was one of more than 1,100 passengers that VAC transported through the first nine months of the year. The organization typically arranges flights for between 1,700 and 1,800 passengers a year, with the busiest season in the last three months of the year. It is particularly busy around the holidays.
“With the war essentially over, we anticipated we would see fewer trip requests, but in fact that’s not the case at all,” said VAC executive director Jen Salvati. “These injuries are lifelong, and many of our passengers need specialized treatment that is not readily available at the local VA hospitals.” In fact, the VAC website, www.veteransairlift.org, had more than four dozen unassigned mission needs awaiting potential takers listed in early October.
VAC passed the 10,000-patient milestone earlier this year. Bunce said of Peck’s mission: “This should make us all proud of what lengths general aviation and corporate America will do to help make life better for one of our severely wounded heroes.”