The grieving father of a well-decorated Army soldier killed in Afghanistan says his family was booed by first class passengers for delaying a flight to meet his son’s remains.
Sgt. John Perry, 30, died on Saturday at Bagram Airfield when he stopped a suicide bomber from reaching his target, a soldiers’ 5K Veterans Day run to benefit disabled veterans.
His father, Stewart Perry, says his son, who was a combat instructor, and the others who died are heroes, as they may have saved more than 100 people’s lives by stopping the bomber from reaching his target.
The father, who is a Marine veteran, said he and his wife, Kathy and daughter, Anita, were flying on an American Airlines flight from Sacramento to Philadelphia with a quick transfer in Phoenix on Monday, The Record reported. From Philadelphia they traveled to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware to receive his son’s remains.
Perry said the family’s flight to Phoenix was 45 minutes late and the crew on-board feared the delay may cause them to miss their connecting flight and miss their son’s arrival at Dover.
Once the plane landed in Phoenix, the captain made an announcement for everyone to stay seated and to let ‘a special military family’ exit the aircraft first.
The heartbroken father said that several passengers seated in first class booed and complained.
‘Some people were saying ‘This is just baloney,’ and ‘I paid for first-class for this?” Perry told the newspaper.
‘It was just disgusting behavior from people in first class; it was terrible to see.
‘You could see the disappointment from the flight crew.’
He said American Airlines ‘did everything they could’ to accommodate his family.
The family made the connecting flight in Phoenix, as the next pilot stayed at that gate for 40 minutes so they could make it on board.
The elder Perry said he and his family were forced to tears when fellow passengers started to boo them on the plane.
‘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,’ Perry emotionally told KOVR.
Perry noted that Vice President Biden was one of many dignitaries at Dover Air Force Base to honor his son as his body returned to the U.S.
‘We really appreciate what Vice President Biden did and his care. He stood on that flight line and saluted with his hand across his chest,’ Perry said.
The grieving father also said that his son’s death underscores why the American flag is not just a symbol for protest, but it’s sacred.
‘It’s not for protest—it’s for the death of the people that are saving us. That’s what it’s for,’ he said.
He also mentioned that there is a disrespect for the loved ones left behind by veterans and called out president-elect Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric and his remarks about the Khan family.
‘One example would be Donald Trump speaking badly about a Gold Star family, who I now am, but it also bothers me that people don’t want to talk about the terrorism that killed my kid,’ the marine veteran father said.
The soldier, who was deployed twice in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, had been awarded a Purple Heart Medal, a Bronze Star and many other awards and decorations.
Perry was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Special Troops Battalion, 1st Sustainment Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.
Pfc. Tyler Lubelt and two Army contractors were also killed in the incident on Saturday.
His eight-year-old little sister, Anita Perry, is also mourning his loss.
‘He was loving and caring and he did care for me,’ the little girl told Fox40.
‘I only met him two times, then he left for Afghanistan and he never came back.’
He leaves behind his wife of eight years, Julianne, and two young children – five-year-old Lena and four-year-old Gavin.
The couple first met in elementary school and eventually reconnected later on in life right before he joined the Army.
His wife says he will be laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia with full military honors.
His family members had a memorial service in their hometown for her husband on Thursday.
A GoFundMe page started to help support the family has raised more than $24,000 as of Saturday morning, surpassing the goal of $20,000.