By Elise VanPool, Public Affairs SpecialistFebruary 5, 2009
FORT STEWART, GA -- The Veterans Airlift Command is making a lot of Wounded Warriors and their Families happy these days by providing cost-free roundtrip flights for Warriors and their Families from their station of recovery to visit Family and friends at home.
VAC is a nonprofit organization of private pilots who fly Wounded Warriors and their Families, at no expense, to assist in the healing process of the wounded warriors. The program has had a positive effect here at Fort Stewart-Hunter Army Airfield as VAC has assisted several local Warriors with flights.
One such Warrior was Pfc. Alyssa Carducci, 90th Human Resource Company, 3rd Infantry Division. Carducci became ill in Iraq and was transported back to the states. VAC flew Carducci home to Florida to visit with her Family while recovering at Fort Stewart.
"It was very generous," she said. "They (VAC) took time out of their lives to take me. It was nice to get away from the solitude of the medical facility I was in."
Maj. David Underwood, who is now with the Fort Sam Houston Warrior in Transition Battalion, served with the 1st Battalion, 9th Field Artillery, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Inf. Div. when he was wounded in Iraq.
When he was recovering at Walter Reed, he took several flights with VAC. In addition, the VAC flew his wife from Savannah to the District of Columbia nearly every week so she could be there to assist with his recovery.
"These people are amazing! It would have placed quit a burden on my Family for my wife to fly commercially," Underwood said. "It was one less thing we had to worry about. This is a pretty amazing group of people... to help Families be together in their time of need."
The MidCoast Regional Airport, co-located at Wright Army Airfield, is one of the locations VAC uses to assist Soldiers. MidCoast Regional Airport shows its support for the program by offering fuel discounts to volunteer pilots who fly missions to the airport or who can prove they have flown missions for VAC in the past, said airport manager Mark R. Davidson.
Richard Thetford, airfield manager at Wright said VAC is a worthwhile program. It allows pilots to "take their skills and airplane and put them to good use." Thetford said that the staff at Wright would do whatever they can to assist VAC in its mission to support the Wounded Warriors.
The program was established in July of 2006 by Walter Fricke, a combat wounded Vietnam veteran.
"I spent six months in a hospital 700 miles from my hometown recovering from combat injuries sustained while flying a helicopter in Vietnam. My healing began in earnest when my Family was able to gather the resources to make a trip to visit me." Fricke said.
Abram Finkelstein, is one of VAC's volunteer pilots. He has flown six flights for VAC out the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport.
Finkelstein heard about the program from a friend in the Air Force who thought Finkelstein might be interested in helping. After learning more about the program, he was excited to volunteer. He was an Army "Brat" himself.
"[I'm] happy to have the opportunity to meet some fantastic people [including] parents and spouses. It gives me a feeling of reward to be giving back to the guys and girls who give so much, "Finkelstein said.
VAC has flown more than 1,000 missions, helping wounded warriors and their Families be together. Their passengers consist of mostly Wounded Warriors, according to VAC representative Jen Salvati.
To learn more about VAC, visit www.veteransairlift.org/page/1/home.jsp or call them at 952-582-2911. For more information regarding MidCoast Airport's support of VAC please visit their website www.midcoastregionalairport.com/news.php'view=7.