On a typical day, TAMKO Building Products’ corporate pilots fly company executives to and from job sites and business meetings. But, whenever possible, TAMKO’s owners volunteer them for the Veterans Airlift Command, a nonprofit that transports wounded veterans and their loved ones across the country using volunteered corporate planes and pilots.
For many wounded veterans, especially those with prosthetic limbs, flying commercial can be a challenge. With private planes, veterans can experience less waiting time, fewer delays and hassles, and more accommodations, such as removing plane seats to provide them with more room and enhanced comfort.
One of the veterans TAMKO’s corporate pilots have assisted through the program is U.S. Army Spc. Eric Lund, who they flew to and from the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas and John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, so he could meet with an arm transplant team. Lund was injured on May 20, 2012, after his vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. He lost both arms above the elbow, suffered a fractured hip, vertebrae and femur, and underwent facial reconstruction. Lund was one of the 10 members of the Michigan Army National Guard who were injured in the attack, and among four other soldiers who suffered serious injuries.
Lund told the Joplin Globe that private flights like the ones he received from TAMKO are very important to veterans and their families. For someone like Lund with prosthetic limbs, flying commercially can be difficult and uncomfortable due to cramped airplane seating.
Founded in 2006 by veteran Walt Fricke, who was injured in the Vietnam War, the Veterans Airlift Command provides free transport, known as Hero Flights, to wounded veterans and their families. When wounded veterans or their family members have a travel need, the organization sends out a request for open seats on corporate or private planes.
TAMKO, a manufacturer of building products, has employed a number of military personnel and veterans, and completed its first Veterans Airlift Command Flight in 2008 when the company’s owners donated its planes and pilots to fly Matthew Miles and his wife Maria. Miles lost his left leg and endured other severe injuries after his vehicle hit an IED in Afghanistan in 2007. Since their first flight for the VAC, TAMKO has provided several Hero Flights each year.
“TAMKO supports the Veterans Airlift Command to do our small part helping these men and women who were injured in service to our country,” said TAMKO President and CEO David Humphreys. “It is difficult for them to travel on commercial airlines and to be subjected to TSA patdowns. We’re trying to make their lives easier after all that they have done for us.”