PHOENIX — Friends of a 22-year-old Marine who lost his legs in Afghanistan said he was forced to remove his prosthetics at Sky Harbor, but TSA officials said it has video that proves otherwise.
The TSA said video taken last week at the security checkpoint shows the incident didn’t happen. Nico Melendez with the TSA said the wounded warrior was not asked to remove his prosthetics by screeners. The terminal was not identified.
“He was treated with the dignity and respect that we expect our wounded warriors to be treated with,” Melendez said. “He completed the screening requirement in less than 8 minutes and we believe the screening went as it was supposed to go.”
Melendez, who spent 23 years in the Navy, said the agents who screened the Marine are military veterans, one a former Marine and the other an 18-year Air Force vet.
“It’s our understanding that they exchanged pleasantries with the Marine and shared stories about their military service.”
Melendez said that 25 percent of “our workforce at TSA has prior military experience and certainly understand what our veterans mean to our nation.”
California Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter became involved when he sent a letter to TSA administrator John Pistole, that read, in part, “The Marine, whose prosthetics were exposed, was humiliated, according to accounts.”
Hunter’s office would not return requests for an interview.
In response to the event, the TSA released the following statement. It has not been altered in anyway.
There have been many reports about a U.S. Marine Wounded Warrior who was recently screened at Phoenix (PHX). Unfortunately, there has been a lot of misreporting.
After reviewing TSA video (CCTV), interviewing and receiving written statements from all Officers involved, we found that the soldier was not asked and did not remove his prosthetic legs. The screening was done by the book and lasted a total of 8 minutes from beginning to end. By chance, the screening was conducted by two TSA Officers who were prior military. One was in the U.S. Air Force for 18 years, and the other was in the U.S. Marine Corps for 13 years.
Nevertheless, we strive to ensure that all veterans and individuals with medical concerns are treated with dignity and respect. 25 percent of TSA employees are prior military. Some are even still serving in the reserves and guard. I’m a veteran as well. We have the greatest respect for our men and women serving in the military and strive to screen them with the dignity they deserve.
Through our Wounded Warrior Screening program, we strive to make the overall experience for wounded service members as simple and trouble-free as possible. In the coming days, we will expand the Wounded Warriors Screening program to offer TSA Pre✓™, or expedited screening, to this group of veterans.
TSA Officers at Phoenix (PHX) alone have screened and assisted 164 Wounded Warriors over the past year.
We value the continued commitment of our veterans and active duty military employees to TSA’s mission, and to ensuring the safety of all Americans.