Soldiers footing bill for plane ride home

Soldiers footing bill for plane ride home »Play Video

PORTLAND, Ore. - Two hundred Northwest soldiers have discovered they can come home for the holidays before leaving for Afghanistan. However, they'll have to figure out how to pay for the trip themselves.

Many families can’t afford the $800 to $900 required for get a last-minute ticket home from Wisconsin. Meanwhile, National Guard officials in Oregon and Washington said they don’t have the resources to fly these soldiers home. Costs for a chartered flight are estimated at $400 per soldier.

Greg Warnock with the Oregon War Veterans Association is trying to raise $40,000 in the next few days to get these local Army National Guard soldiers home for Christmas.

“They don’t have the money for this. They weren’t planning for this. They didn’t think they would be able to come home, and now suddenly they’re stuck,” said Warnock.

The Guard said that at the last minute the Northwest soldiers weren’t able to move forward into Kuwait from their current stop at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin.

After a quick stop in Kuwait, the soldiers are being deployed to Afghanistan for a year. There they will be doing some of the military’s most dangerous work: looking for and detonating bombs. That assignment starts in January.

A previous plan to bring the Washington National Guard soldiers home using a plane out of McChord Air Force Base fell through. Military regulations somehow stood in the way of that.

So it’s up to Warnock and anyone else who’s willing to help.

“We rarely come to the public and ask for assistance,” said Warnock. “When we do, people respond, and that’s what we’re doing now.”

Late in the day Friday Warnock said he’d gotten in contact with the Portland Trail Blazers, who have a team jet and is working with them to see if something can be worked out. But he’s been turned down by other major corporations.

If, by chance, you have a spare jet or want to make a donation, you can go to the Oregon War Veterans Association Web site.