US Airways has issued an apology after a flight attendant harassed the service dog a former Marine uses to help cope with post-traumatic stress disorder, Lansing State Journal reports.
On December 7, the flight attendant yelled at Eric Calley in mid-flight because his Doberman service dog, named Sun, placed her paws on an empty seat for a brief moment during a period of turbulence. No one else appeared to have any problems with the brief event. A passenger sitting near Calley was also a veteran and guessed that Sun was there to help monitor Calley’s heart rate and calm him down.
After serving two tours in Iraq, Calley began to suffer from PTSD and often experiences painful flashbacks and panic attacks. In 2012, he founded a non-profit called The Fight Continues, which helps veterans readjust to civilian life and also works with Liberty’s Legacy to bring more service dogs to Michigan for veterans.
“She helps me just leave the house,” Calley said, speaking about how Sun has contributed to his recovery. “She helps me deal with people. Dogs are 10 times more intuitive than humans. They pick up things way more than we do. If you have a flashback, and say you’re dreaming you’re overseas and you wake up, you still think you’re over there for a while. She helps you get out of that. She brings you back to real time.”
Still, the flight attendant threatened to have the police waiting for the dozen passengers who sided with Calley and protested the treatment that he and his dog were receiving.
Finally, US Airways issued a statement this week apologizing for the actions of its personnel.
“We sincerely apologize to Mr. Calley for his experience and thank him for his service to our country,” the statement said. “American holds the men and women who serve and who have served our country in the highest regard.”
“[I]t appears our airport personnel didn’t handle the situation with the quality customer care we expect,” the statement added.
US Airways spokeswoman Leslie Scott said that the airline is following up on the complaint further. But it’s unclear whether any disciplinary action was taken against the employee in question, leaving Calley dissatisfied with the apology.
“We are going to continue to have this huge influx of new veterans coming back,” Calley said. “And it can take a veteran four to five years after getting out to even attempt to get help. The thing I want US Airways to understand is that this is going to be a growing problem. There will be 10 others like me.”
Earlier this month, a US Airways employee refused to allow Army Sgt. Justin Bond board a flight with his service dog, despite the fact that Bond frequently travels with his service dog without interruption. Bond was on his way to a therapy session he leads for a group called Suicidal Veterans.
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