Wounded Soldier Returned to Valparaiso

Sunday, October 7, 2007

BY KEN KOSKY kkosky@nwitimes.com 219.548.4354

VALPARAISO Wounded soldier Edward "E.J." Trautner, of Valparaiso, has endured so many surgeries that he's lost count.But every time he and his family have to fly from Valparaiso to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., the one thing they don't have to worry about is transportation.A new nonprofit organization, Veterans Airlift Command, provides free flights to wounded warriors, veterans and their family members. The organization has an ever-growing list of hundreds of pilots and airplane owners who donate their time and resources to serve those who have served the country.Trautner, who was shot in the head by a sniper while manning an Iraqi checkpoint on Aug. 24, 2006, has taken several flights arranged by Veterans Airlift Command, including one on Saturday. On Saturday, he and his mother, Stacy Fellers, flew into Porter County Municipal Airport on a private jet."Even though the person who sponsored the plane wants to remain anonymous, I'd like to thank them," the 21-year-old Trautner said."It just makes me feel really good to know there are people willing to donate their time and help."His mother added that "it's downright patriotic" and greatly appreciated.Pilots Tom Rea, of Valparaiso, and Jim Sheely, of LaCrosse, were captains of Saturday's flight, which marked their first chance to help a soldier and Veterans Airlift Command."I spent 20 years in the military, so I like to help when I can ... I'm glad to help," Rea said."I'm a Vietnam veteran and my son was in Iraq," Sheely added."I'm just glad to help any soldier who has been injured."Trautner, his family and the pilots talked to the media in hopes of spreading the word about Veterans Airlift Command so that more pilots and aircraft owners will volunteer, so more people will donate and so other soldiers will know free flights are available to them.Walt Fricke said he founded the Veterans Airlift Command because of a personal experience."I spent six months in a hospital 700 miles from my hometown recovering from combat injuries sustained while flying a helicopter in Vietnam," Fricke said."My healing began in earnest when my family was able to gather the resources to make a trip to visit me."Fricke said his organization has arranged 150 "missions" in its first year of operation.Trautner, who still has a few more surgeries on the horizon, plans to retire from the Army in the near future and hopes to attend law school at Valparaiso University with the goal of becoming a district attorney. He gave up his original plan to be a police officer because he lost his right eye in the sniper attack in Iraq.Trautner's mother is employed by VU and his stepfather, Scott Fellers, works at Beta Steel -- and both said their employers have been accommodating, making the past year easier for the family.Visit www.veteransairlift.org for more information. For more info: www.veteransairlift.org

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

To all those involved in Veterans Airlift Command. You have all the BLESSING AND HEARTFELT thoughts that a man can personally summon. For your dedication and time along with the resources at hand in providing much needed assistant to our Veterans in need, I along with the other Veterans express our sincere gratitude.

Thank You
Cpl Martell USMC