Wounded warrior gets lift from Veteran's Airlift Command

Jesse Murphree and family. (Photo: WJLA/Jay Korff)

GAITHERSBURG, Md. (WJLA) – Of all the flights in and out of Montgomery County Airpark, Michael Bell will tell you the flight he is piloting Monday night will be among his most memorable.

“I’ve had an incredible opportunity over the last couple years through the Veteran’s Airlift Command to meet some amazing young men and women,” said Bell.

Bell and co-pilot Mark Hogan are flying 27-year-old Jesse Murphree, his wife Ashlee, their young son Brody, and Murphree’s service dog Atticus from Maryland to the Murphrees’ home in Florida. And the pilots are picking up the cost of the flight. This is all possible thanks to Veteran’s Airlift Command (VAC).

VAC pairs pilots with men and women wounded after 9/11 who need medical attention out of state. The organization flew Murphree and his family to Maryland two weeks ago for his 63rd surgery. He’s had lingering nerve pain.

Murphree, a sergeant with the 173rd Airborne Combat Team, lost both legs above the knee to an anti-tank mine in Afghanistan back in 2007.

“I was thrown well over 100 feet down the mountain,” said Murphree.

He says the financial, mental and physical burdens that come with commercial flying can be overwhelming for him and his family. That’s why this kind of stress-free flying means so much in light of everything he’s going through. In fact, Murphree is this program’s 10,000th passenger.

“To know you are finally going home and to be in a private plane, you can’t really explain it. You feel very loved and very cool,” said Murphree.

Pilot Michael Bell says he's happy to pick up the cost of the flight as money has nothing to do with this flight of honor. He says it's the least he can do to pay back patriots whose sacrifice for a nation has been immeasurable.

Bell said, “When the war is over, we don’t want the young men and women to be forgotten. Their struggle continues for the rest of their life.”

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