Cessna Aircraft Company, a Textron Inc. (NYSE: TXT) company, is joining forces with Veterans Airlift Command to provide free transportation for injured veterans. Cessna has designated a Citation Mustang, named the “American Patriot,” to fly VAC missions, the first of which will occur Nov. 10, 2011.
VAC is a nonprofit organization that provides free medical and compassionate transportation for wounded veterans and their families through a national network of aircraft owners and pilots. Its priority is to help the veterans of Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan).
On Thursday, Nov. 10, Cessna’s “American Patriot” Mustang will fly two veterans from San Antonio, Texas, to and from VAC’s annual fundraiser in Pinehurst, N.C., where they will be honored on Veterans Day, Nov. 11.
“Our men and women in uniform have given our country a tremendous service, and many have paid a heavy price. Our commitment of the ‘American Patriot’ to support the Veterans Airlift Command allows us to demonstrate our gratitude and provides Cessna with a way to give back to our wounded warriors,” said Scott Ernest, Cessna president and CEO. “I encourage those who have not yet registered their aircraft with VAC to join up and fly with us so no travel need goes unmet.”
The “American Patriot’s” inaugural mission will transport veterans Bobby Henline and Matthew Miles. Henline, a former U.S. Army staff sergeant, was injured in an improvised explosive device attack in Iraq on April 7, 2007. Henline is now a motivational speaker and stand-up comic.
Miles, a U.S. Army sergeant first class, was injured in an IED attack Oct. 13, 2007 in Zormat Afghanistan, which resulted in the loss of his left leg, severe lacerations and hand injuries. Miles now resides in San Antonio, Texas, with his wife Maria, a VAC mission coordinator, and their three sons.
The “American Patriot” Mustang features a unique paint scheme that salutes the men and women who serve or have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. On each side, the “Patriot Defender” character holds a shield featuring the four branches of the Armed Forces as a large American flag unfurls down the side of the aircraft. The “American Patriot” debuted at the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) annual convention Oct. 10, 2011.
“Many of our veterans return from combat facing devastating injuries and long-term rehabilitation. Many times, they are recuperating hundreds of miles away from family. Our goal at VAC is to be that bridge that brings families together to help our veterans heal,” said Walt Fricke, VAC founder and air boss. “We are fortunate to have Cessna join us in providing our wounded warriors with this crucial service."