photo courtesy of Paws and Stripes: Jim and Lindsey co founders of Paws and Stripes with Sarge
Jim Stanek a three tour Iraq veteran and the co-founder of Paws and Stripes a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization for wounded veterans of our United States military that works to provide service dogs for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain injury had a very traumatic experience flying recently. Stanek and his dog where booked on a United Airline Flight to get home from a fundraiser when one thing after another went wrong with his flight. Stanek who is a disabled veteran himself has PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury that makes him sensitive to light and have difficulty reading, along with other physical but none apparent injuries was having difficulty dealing with the persistent delays and cancellations of his flight. The delays and cancelations meant that he and Sarge his service dog had to spend extra nights away from home and without food for Sarge and running out of meds for himself. Instead of being treated with respect and dignity his service dog was kicked twice by two separate United Airline Ground Personnel. By day 2 of delays and cancellations Stanek was having difficulty processing the situation and taking care of himself let alone helping Sarge to deal with the over stimulation and abuse he received.
Even after Stanek on mulitple occassions told ground crew he was a disabled vet and needed help he was ignored. Sarge was kicked twice and Stankey was called “retarded” because he couldn’t read the email he was sent by United Ailines ticketing on night two. This all took place at what was supposed to be a layover at Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C. on his way home from an important fundraiser for his organization. Finally two “angels” came to Stanek’s rescue and helped him make his way home. While it is impossible to give specialized treatment to everyone during delays and cancellations allowances should have been made for Stanek because of his disability. Even if it was giving him a pass to their club room so that he didn’t need to be at the gate with so many people crowding around him and Sarge. Not only would it have made a bad situation better for the pair but it would have allowed Stanek a bit of dignity so that he did not have to be in a situation that caused him and by association Sarge more stress.
Stanek is not calling for a ban on the airlines he os merely asking them to take a look at their policies and have procedures in place to help not only disabled vets but anyone with a disability in times of delay and cancellation that cannot be helped. He wants United airline to take a long hard look at the way they train their employees in dealing with customers in these situations and any situation when they specifically come up to them and specifically ask for assistance. Delays are never fun and cancellations even less so unless you are a child who gets to miss a day of school or spend the night in a new city having an adventure but for someone with PTSD or someone with a disability whether it is one you can see on the outside or not is extremely difficult and they feel like the entire world is against them. Wouldn’t helping the person with a disability and making them feel like someone who matters mean so much more and look better for the company.
The service dogs trained by Paws and Stripes are obtained only from shelters, and are trained by professionals specializing in service dogs. It is the aim of this organization to provide these dogs and training for no cost to the veteran.
Felissa Elfenbein is the author and creator of Two Little Cavaliers. She loves to travel and so do her two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels Davinia and Indiana. We have lived in NYC, Florida, Georgia, Berlin, Germany, & Hong Kong.
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