The family of a soldier who was killed when he stopped a suicide bomber in Afghanistan was booed in an airplane after the captain announced they should leave the plane first.
Sgt. John Perry, 30 years old, died when he intercepted a suicide bomber, who was targeting the 5K Veterans Day run, before the bomber could get to his intended target. Perry died together with Pfc. Tyler Iubelt and two American contractors. Sixteen other Americans were wounded.
Perry’s father Stewart said he and his family were in an American Airlines flight from Sacramento to Philadelphia with a connecting flight in Phoenix to pick up his son’s remains. However, the flight from Sacramento was 45 minutes behind schedule.
Stewart said when their plane reached Arizona, the captain, concerned that the family would miss their connecting flight, announced that everyone should remain seated so that a “military family” could exit first.
“When he made that announcement, there was some hissing and some booing behind us,” Stewart said, according to Army Times. They were seated in first class. “It was very disappointing. It’s just enough to put you over the edge.”
Stewart couldn’t recall if the captain specified the reason why they were allowed to leave the aircraft first or if he announced they were a Gold Star family, but he believed people had an idea about it because the woman sitting behind them asked if he was “the father of the soldier killed in Afghanistan.”
“To hear the reaction of the flight being delayed because of a Gold Star family, and the first class cabin booing that was really upsetting, and it made us cry some more,” he told CBS Sacramento.
Stewart said he wanted, more than anything, for people to know about the heroic act of his son. If Perry hadn’t intercepted the suicide the bomber, the bomber “would have killed 100, 200, who knows,” Stewart said.
“My kid was over there to help put a stop to this garbage, and he died,” he said.
He said the people in the first class cabin booing and hissing was “terrible to see.”
Stewart lamented that the death of his son happened at a time when respect for the U.S. military is waning. Stewart himself is a marine veteran.
He said he didn’t have any problem with American Airlines; the problem was the passengers’ behavior and lack of respect.
Thankfully, the pilot for their connecting flight in Arizona waited for their arrival before taking off.
“We might have missed our son’s arrival [at Dover] if we had missed that flight,” he said.
Sgt. Perry will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery. He is survived by his wife and two children.