Soldiers who have completed tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan have been stuck there because of a military transportation snafu. Vermont's congressional delegation on Wednesday wrote to Defense Secretary Robert Gates. "The parents of two Vermont soldiers have contacted our offices to express frustration that their sons are facing delays in coming home. After completing their service to our country overseas, our men and women deserve a safe return home without delays," Senators Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders and Rep. Peter Welch said in the letter to the Pentagon.
Flight delays from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kuwait have been blamed on the bankruptcy of ATA Airlines, a private contractor the military used to ferry troops between U.S. and overseas. ATA halted operations on April 3. The Indianapolis-based airline had been contracted to fly 70 military charters through September, according to Air Force Times, a newspaper that is not part of the military.
Many service-members participating in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom already had had their deployments extended to 15 months, the Vermont congressional delegation noted in the letter to Gates. "Ask any of these men and women when they are going home and most can give you a precise day and time. The same is true of their families who have been eagerly anticipating the return of their loved one. To be told within days of shipping out that your trip home has been delayed until a date uncertain is demoralizing. Unnecessary delays also result in additional troops remaining in a war zone beyond when their presence serves any constructive purpose for the war-fighting effort.
"In light of these facts," concluded the delegation letter to the defense secretary, "We hope you can provide specific information as to how many service members' return flights have been delayed, for how long, and what steps the department is taking to ensure their prompt and safe travel home…After completing their service to our country overseas, our men and women deserve a safe return home without delays."
To read the entire delegation letter, click here.