The father of a soldier who was killed in a deadly attack in Afghanistan told Army Times that he and his family were booed by their fellow passengers as they flew to meet his son's remains at Dover Air Force Base.
Stewart Perry and his wife and daughter on Monday flew from Sacramento to Philadelphia, with a layover in Phoenix. From Philadelphia, they took ground transportation to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.
Sgt. John Perry was killed when a suicide bomber detonated his vest on Saturday on Bagram Airfield. Pfc. Tyler Iubelt and two American contractors were also killed in the attack. Sixteen American and one Polish service member were wounded.
The American Airlines flight from Sacramento was delayed, leaving about 45 minutes behind schedule, according to Stewart Perry, and time was running out for the family to make their connecting flight in Phoenix.
When the plane arrived in Arizona, the captain announced that everyone was to remain seated to allow the Perry family to leave first.
"When he made that announcement, there was some hissing and some booing behind us," said Perry, who was sitting in first class.
Staff Sgt. John W. Perry (left), 30, of Stockton, California, and Pfc. Tyler R. Iubelt, 20, of Tamaroa, Illinois, were killed Nov. 12 in a deadly suicide bombing attack on Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan.
Photo Credit: Army
Perry, a Marine veteran, doesn't remember the captain telling everyone the reason they had to wait, but he said he does recall the captain mentioning "military personnel."
"I believe that the passengers knew there was a Gold Star family on board," he said. "The woman sitting directly behind us touched me on the shoulder and asked if I was the father of the soldier killed in Afghanistan."
That leads Perry to believe some kind of announcement was made before he and his family sat down.
"It was very disappointing," he said. "It's just enough to put you over the edge."
The incident was first reported by CBS Sacramento.
In Phoenix, the pilot of the connecting flight waited until he and his family were on board, Perry said.
Perry said they weren't able to thank that pilot because of the rush, but that the pilot chose to sit there and wait for the Gold Star family.
"We might have missed our son's arrival [at Dover] if we had missed that flight," he said.
American Airlines was never the problem — it was the disrespectful attitude of some of the passengers on the flight to Phoenix, Perry said.
The Gold Star father said that regardless of whether the passengers knew the reason for the family's urgency, they should have been more tolerant.
"Generally, as Americans, we need to be more compassionate to each other and to understand and listen and just stay calm," he said.
Perry said people also need to be more respectful of the military.
"I'm a civilian now so I can tolerate it and even say something back if I want to," he said. "If a military guy does that, he's in big trouble. They don't need that kind of grief."
Charlsy Panzino covers the Guard and Reserve, training, technology, operations and features for Army Times and Air Force Times. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.