Onlookers described it as a powerful show of solidarity. A group of nearly 60 U.S. veterans on their way home from Washington, D.C., decided to deboard a plane when one veteran was told he couldn't fly due to safety concerns.
The group of veterans, all residents of Oklahoma, had just completed a four-day trip to the nation's capital organized by Northeast Oklahoma Veterans Freedom Tour, a nonprofit dedicated to taking veterans on tours of memorials and monuments all around the country.
According to KOTV-TV, they were seated on a plane in Charlotte, N.C., and ready for take-off back to Tulsa when they learned that one member of their group was unable to fly. His oxygen concentrator had run out of batteries and couldn't be recharged using the plane's electrical outlets.
With no way to charge the medical device, American Airlines determined it would be unsafe for the veteran to undertake the flight, per company policies. In the interest of his safety, they informed him that he couldn't fly.
After hearing the unfortunate news, the other veterans aboard the flight made the decision to follow him off the aircraft. One of the group's leaders, Wayne Perego, told KOTV they didn't make the decision lightly; rather, they had made a promise.
"No veteran left behind," Perego recalled in an interview with the outlet.
"We just decided that you know what, we are going to go off the plane also if he's going off. If they're gonna take him off, the whole bunch was gonna go off," he said.
Nearly 60 Veterans Deboard Plane In Solidarity With One Who Couldn't Flywww.youtube.com
Back inside, the group started looking for other flights or modes of transportation and also where to get more batteries for the oxygen concentrator. They stayed at the airport until 5 a.m. while American booked hotel rooms and taxis.
The next morning, American provided pizza and transport back to the airport. The airline was also able to deliver extra batteries flown in from Norfolk, Virginia, and book the group on a chartered flight — just for the veterans.
When they finally touched down in Tulsa, a crowd of supporters was there to welcome them home.
In a statement, the nonprofit that sponsored the trip wrote, "On behalf of the Northeast Oklahoma Veterans Freedom Tour, we want to apologize to our Veterans for the issue at the Charlotte airport and we wish this would have never happened, we wanted to show our Respect and Honor to each of you during this trip."
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