The Veterans Airlift Command, a network of volunteer private pilots, flew its first mission in November, carrying an injured Marine from Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, N.C., to his home in Florida.
Last June, while serving in Iraq, Cpl. Christopher Brink was injured in a bomb blast that killed two others. While still recovering from his injuries, he left his home in Florida to meet his platoon and receive his Purple Heart at Camp Lejeune. The commercial airline trip took 13 hours with three layovers and was very difficult for Brink, who was still on crutches. His father had heard about a group called Veterans Airlift Command, a non-profit network of pilots that fly wounded soldiers and their families to and from medical facilities. He called VAC and asked if they could help. VAC quickly arranged for Brink’s flight home.
Walt Fricke, founder of VAC, asked Billy and Christopher Ball to pilot the first mission. The father and son flew their Cirrus from Jacksonville, Fla., to Jacksonville, N.C., where they picked up Brink and flew him home. Their direct flight took only three hours.
“This is a great way for us to give back and a really cool experience overall,” said Christopher Ball. “You just can’t imagine the appreciation of the young men and women we are helping. It doesn’t matter what you think about the war; they are heroes. They deserve to be supported without question.”
Walt Fricke is no stranger to the challenges of recovering from war injuries. He was wounded while flying a helicopter during the Vietnam War and spent six months recovering in a hospital 700 miles from his home. His healing began in earnest only when his family was able to gather its resources and visit him, he says. That experience motivated him to start VAC.
For more information: