Imagine going to war, being wounded, coming back an amputee and having to be treated miles away from home.
Monterey High School graduate Jason Bates is living that reality. However, Wednesday afternoon Bates flew home to Lubbock from San Antonio, on the wings of volunteers.
Bates is home for this Thanksgiving thanks to the Veterans Airlift Command. It's a nationwide non-profit program, that's only one-year-old. It's mission, to fly those like Bates home for the holidays or for medical care, all for free.
A Thanksgiving homecoming, but this one is not by a commercial airplane. Instead, Army Private First Class Jason Bates is flying in from San Antonio on pilot Bill Kendrick's A-36 Bonanza.
"It was scary when we took off but when we were in the air it was alright, once we got to our cursing altitude it was fun," Bates told NewsChannel 11.
The flight took just over two hours, with Bates's mother, Dejon awaiting his arrival.
"It's such a blessing and it was amazing and such a wonderful program for these soldiers," Dejon Bates said.
Bates is now in San Antonio receiving therapy after an IED destroyed his Humvee in Iraq in May. Doctors amputated his foot and part of his leg, which Bates says makes it difficult for him to travel back and forth for treatment.
"It's real tough for me to travel through the commercial airlines, because it's hard for me to get around. I don't have a lot of help," Bates added.
So that's where Kendrick comes in. Kendrick is one of more than 500 volunteer pilots with the Veterans Airlift Command. Their mission is to fly wounded soldiers and their families for medical care and other compassionate trips.
Kendrick said, "People like Jason made a huge sacrifice and for us to volunteer to transport him so he could spend the holidays with his family, it's a small to the sacrifice he made.
A sacrifice made by one American for another and both is equally as grateful.
"How do you say thank you. They just love what they do," said Dejon.
"I didn't think I was going to be home for Thanksgiving, so it feels good," Bates added.
The Veterans Airlift Command will make over 200 flights this year nationwide. Next Thursday VAC is flying Jason and his family to Fort Brag, North Carolina for his Purple Heart Ceremony.
To find out how you can get involved with the volunteer program click here.
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