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HomeNewsThe Veterans Airlift Command provides four wounded warriors with flight back home

The Veterans Airlift Command provides four wounded warriors with flight back home

Veterans Airlift CommandClarksville, TN – On Thursday July 7th, Outlaw Field in Clarksville served as the landing point for two flights from the non-profit Veterans Airlift Command, which were  bringing four wounded warriors and family members back home.

The Verra family is literally surrounded by well wishers
The Verra family is literally surrounded by well wishers

The first flight was piloted by Nate Elliot and brought Sgt. Anthony Verra along with his wife Shauna and 11 month old daughter Scarlett back home to Clarksville for a short visit before they will return back to the Washington DC area next week to undergo further physical therapy. They are in town to participate in events with his unit on Fort Campbell. Sgt. Verra, stepped on a pressure plate IED in September 2010 while on patrol as he served with the Headquarters and Headquarters Battery of the 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team during their deployment to Afghanistan. The explosion forced the removal of both of his legs, a type of injury that is being seen more frequently since the focus of the War on Terror moved from Iraq to Afghanistan.

According to Capt. Patrick Motto, Commander of the Headquarters and Headquarters Battery of the 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment; Verra who was the 1st platoon squad leader, had a big impact on his unit. “He was a big part of the unit. He was one of those guys that always had a smile on his face. Always “Hey here’s a mission… Alright I got it”; and you don’t have to worry about it. He brought people together. His smile was infectious to the unit, and it’s a great thing.  With him coming back, it signals he’s healthy, he’s happy, and I really just want to see him home.” Capt. Motto was on hand waiting for Verra’s flight to arrive along with the 200 men under his command.

“When Verra was injured, there was just an outpouring of support from the rest of the Battery. People flocked to their house in Clarksville, sat with them, did anything and everything they could, cooked meals for them so they didn’t have to worry about that. Made sure the family was eating because that is the last thing you think about. within 24-48 hours Shauna was on a plane to see him, and she been with him ever since.”

Clarksville City Councilman Nick Steward welcomes the attendees
Clarksville City Councilman Nick Steward welcomes the attendees

Also waiting for the flight to arrive were Clarksville City Council members Nick Steward and David Allen, community members, representatives of the 101st Airborne Division Association, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post #11160, and members of the Patriot Guard.

“It’s important for every soldier who’s coming home to receive a proper hero’s welcome. Sgt. Verra missed his when his unit returned from Afghanistan a few months ago.” said City Councilman Nick Steward.

When the flight arrived Verra was assisted from the aircraft and seated in a wheel chair before making his way over to greet his welcoming party. The 17 members of the Patriot Guard stood in a line each man bearing a United States flag.

“I really don’t have a speech.” said Sgt Verra.

“I will say something real quick” said Verra’s wife Shauna. “You all have been amazing in your continuous support and encouragement for our family. All of you being here today just keeps that going for us. It’s been a long road and we are glad to finally make it round trip. So we are back for the time being and so excited. Thank you so much! I am very proud of my husband and I am glad all of you are here to show your support as well.”

The Verra Family greeting members of his unit
The Verra Family greeting members of his unit

“Ya what she said,” responded Sgt Verra.

The men of his platoon were released to welcome their brother in arms home, followed by the rest of the Company.  Afterwards Verra spoke with reporters for a few minutes.

Sgt. Anthony Verra speaking to reporters
Sgt. Anthony Verra speaking to reporters

One reporter asked “Sir how does it feel to be back from Afghanistan, and from Walter Reed” Sgt. Verra responded “It feels great, it’s been a long road. There hero part is what gets ,me I mean the real heroes are pretty much right behind you over there” indicating the soldiers of his unit. He continued, “(unintelligible)…They are pretty much my heroes I think it is pretty awesome. There is a lot of community support. Being a wounded warrior and even before we deployed. You felt it every where you went. Evey store, shop, even at the mall people appreciated you. It’s really great here. I plan on coming back here when this is all said and done.”

Verra seemed uncomfortable being called a hero, when asked why he said “I stepped on a IED. The heroes are the people who take care of you, people like my wife. She has done a great job. I don’t think there are many people who could do what she’s done, what she has over come. Everybody has a different role. Mine was just to get people home safe, and I did that until I got hit. I think the people that took care of me were the real heroes.”

Speaking of the road ahead Verra said, “They are trying to get prosthetics right now; Left leg above the knee, right is all the way up. Part of the pelvis is gone to, so it’s very diffacult for them to get a prosthetic that fits because they have never had this type of injury.What they have noticed since we deployed is that the injuries that are coming in now are completely different than what they had two years ago. Before everything was mounted in Iraq, now everything is dismounted. So instead of spinal cord injuries and stuff like that, now you are having amputations that are severe. I don’t know if you have had the chance to go to Walter Reed or not, but there are a lot of wounded warriors there.”

Shauna Verra with her daughter Scarlett
Shauna Verra with her daughter Scarlett

Afterwards his wife came over. Shauna was a Family Readiness Group Co-leader, an integral part of the support system for the soldiers of the company.

“This is amazing, absolutely overwhelming; more than I could have dreamed for. Honestly And I am so happy for him,” she said indicating her husband. “Like I said earlier to finally make it round trip and have everyone here to help welcome us home is truly just overwhelming. It really is. It has been a long road. Just to be able to get away. I don’t know if Anthony told you but this is our first time away from DC since September. So it’s been a long time. So to have this homecoming I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

When she was told that her husband called her his hero,  Shauna responded “He’s my hero, so  I can be his.” She described the moment of receiving the call that her husband had been injured in combat,”I love my husband to death, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I always tell him when I got that call it is the worst feeling in your life, but at the same time you turn the page and go what’s next, lets do this! And that is what we have done. We’ve just kept going, no matter what obstacle has come in our way, or what’s happened. We’ve had our ups and downs and we just keep going. You look forward to the next day. That’s my husband, that’s my hero, and that’s her hero too.” she said indicating her 11 month old daughter. “She has been our little sunshine, and I don’t know how we could have done this without her.  She is the one thing that can make us smile and brighten the day. She has adapted amazingly she knows no different. She not only brightens his day but even when we were on the ward she’d roll up and down and say high to the other soldiers. She became the ward baby as they like to call her. She loves her day that’s all that matters!”

After they were done, it was time for the convoy to head to Fort Campbell. A Clarksville Police Department Car took the lead, then the Patriot Guard Riders. A white van carrying the family followed.

The van carrying the Verra family passing Patriots Park on the Way to Fort Campbell
The van carrying the Verra family passing Patriots Park on the Way to Fort Campbell

Verra wants to remain in Army, and will undergo a medical review board which will decide if that is possible. If he is permitted to continue to serve, he would likely be assigned a specialty (MOS), that he can do with his disabilities.

The Airplane from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma
The Airplane from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma

The second flight came in a short time later. They were flying in from the Brooks Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, on a aircraft provided by the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. “The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma is extremely generous, and they have already agreed to provide support for another mission” said Jen Salvati, the Operations Manager at Veterans Airlift Command.

On the flight was SSG. Phillip Casey, who was in the same company as Verra; 1st Lt. Larkin O’Hearn of Bravo Company, 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment; and PFC. Jack Zimmerman of Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 502nd Infantry Regiment.

Casey was greeted by members of his unit.

SSG. Phillip Casey being greeted by members of his unit
SSG. Phillip Casey being greeted by members of his unit

Afterwards the group didn’t seem interested in talking with the media, so we let them have their privacy. A short time later they boarded three seperate vehicles and were on their way.

Peter Stent, A Netjets owner out of Redwood City California is donating his flight hours to the Veterans Airlift Command in order to fly SSG. Casey and PFC. Zimmerman back to Texas on the 10th.

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About the Veterans Airlift Command

Veterans Airlift CommandThe VAC provides free air transportation to wounded veterans and their families for medical and other compassionate purposes, through a national network of volunteer aircraft owners and pilots.

There are three things the VAC needs:

  1. Passengers
  2. Piloted Planes
  3. Money to keep the program going.

You can help bring families together. You can give something back to the soldiers who sacrificed so much. You can be proud to be an American.

The VAC is a 501©(3) nonprofit organization. Donations are absolutely crucial to maintaining their national network of pilots and aircraft owners, in order to facilitate their missions. Thanks to their lean infrastructure with only 3 paid employees, and the passion of their volunteers, donor dollars go a long way. Their goal is to have each $1 donated to the VAC be worth $10 of air transport.

If you would like more information about the Veterans Airlift command visit their web site.

Bill Larson
Bill Larson
Bill Larson is  is politically and socially active in the community. Bill is a member of the Friends of Dunbar Cave. You can reach him via telephone at 931-249-0043 or via the email address below.
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