Volunteer pilots provide R&R for wounded soldiers

Gunnery Sgt. John Hayes of the U.S. Marine Corps is a huge fan of the Chicago Bulls basketball team. His dream of going to a Bulls’ home game became even more remote after a roadside bomb cost him both legs while serving on combat duty in Afghanistan.

While speaking to a public affairs officer at Walter Reed National Naval Medical Center in Maryland, Joe Howley, president of Patient AirLift Services, realized he could make a difference in the lives of these soldiers and show appreciation for the sacrifices they have made for our country. Through PALS, he could arrange the transportation needed to get them out of the hospital for some R&R (rest and relaxation).

“I know I will never walk my daughters down the aisle and it hurts me deeply,” says Gunnery Sgt. Hayes. “But, when I get invited to the Chicago Bulls auditorium in the United Center, that helps sweeten the deal and gets my mind off the negative and focusing on the positive.”

“This is a wonderful way to get soldiers out of the hospital — to be able to see that the citizens of this country embrace them and to give them a little help with their rehabilitation,” said Howley, “and I enjoy watching them relax.”

As a volunteer pilot with Patient Airlift Services, Howley has flown wounded veterans from Bethesda to sporting events as part of a coordinated effort among organizations that assist wounded members of the U.S. Armed Forces. These excursions enable them to enjoy a little rest and relaxation during a long and difficult rehabilitation process.

“The unseen side of rehabilitation is the depression,” explains Gunnery Sgt. Hayes. “When you lose the majority of your body, you know your life is forever changed.”

Patient AirLift Services (PALS) arranges need-based, free air transportation to individuals requiring medical care, as well as for other humanitarian purposes. PALS operates a network of volunteer pilots who provide this service without compensation, using their own or rented aircraft. In no case are fees of any kind charged for these services; generally, the individuals who utilize PALS have limited financial resources and are receiving diagnosis, treatment or follow-up for various types of acute or chronic illnesses or conditions that make it financially impossible to use public commercial or private charter transportation.

See a video of Howley and Hayes being interviewed on Fox and Friends here.

For more information: visit PALServices.org or 888-818-1231


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