When a decorated, disabled and retired Marine corporal traveled to Sacramento to receive an honor from his state representative, he received dishonorable treatment from security officers.
Although Cpl. Nathan Kemnitz wore his medal-laden Marine Corps uniform on his trip to be honored as his legislative district’s veteran of the year, it earned him no preferential treatment with Transportation Security Administration or Sacramento, Calif., security officers, according to Military Times.
A roadside bomb in Fallujah nine years ago left Kemnitz severely injured, limiting his mobility in his right arm. So he was unable to comply with TSA agents’ request that he raise his hands above his head, and he couldn’t fulfill the request of security officers at the Sacramento Capitol building that he remove his dress shirt “because he was wearing too much metal.”
“My right arm doesn’t work,” Kemnitz told the Capitol security officers, according to the Times. “It’s a lot of hassle for me to do that.”
The Times reported:
At the state capitol, the Marine’s refusal to remove his uniform top grew into a heated exchange between Kemnitz, a friend who was accompanying him and security officers.
At the airport, bystanders stared as the TSA security screener looked under Kemnitz’s medals, ran his hands under the Marine’s waistband and swabbed his shoes for explosives.
“What does a uniform and heroism represent if our own citizens — in this case employees of the TSA and security personnel — have no regard for them?” Kemnitz’s escort, Patricia Martin, wrote in a letter to Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki following the incidents.
Martin took photos and disseminated them to the media.
“I feel so strongly that you need to know just how shamefully even a Purple Heart recipient/disabled veteran can be treated by some TSA and security employees,” she said.
NBC reporter Luke Russert said he witnessed a similar incident at Reagan National Airport involving a warrior-amputee going through additional layers of security, noting in a tweet:
TSA at National airport, USAirways terminal, making Wounded Warriors with prosthetic legs go through extra explosives screening. #fail
— Luke Russert (@LukeRussert) January 9, 2013
Kemnitz took the encounter at Sacramento International Airport pretty much in stride, but described the Capitol security officers as rude and unapologetic.
“At some places I’m treated like royalty and at some like a terrorist,” he said. “There’s got to be something in the middle.”
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