Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Congressman puts airline miles where his mouth is

2nd District U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly of Granger donates miles to veterans

U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly (2007 Tribune File Photo/PARKER MICHELS-BOYCE)

By Tiffany Griffin

Story Created: Jan 8, 2008 at 7:59 AM EST

Story Updated: Jan 8, 2008 at 7:59 AM EST

SOUTH BEND — It’s a routine familiar to most members of Congress: fly to Washington at the beginning of the week, fly home to your district at the end of the week. Rinse, repeat.

And with those flights come frequent flier miles, some 48,000 in the case of U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly, D-2nd, of Granger.

On Monday, Donnelly announced he would donate those miles to the Fisher House Foundation, which will use them to provide free flights for wounded veterans undergoing treatment at military or VA facilities, and their families.

"I’ve always viewed those miles as the property of the people of the 2nd District of Indiana," Donnelly said at a news conference inside South Bend Regional Airport on Monday.

The miles Donnelly donated are roughly the equivalent of two round-trip air tickets, he said.

The free flights are a blessing to people like Jerry and Julie Coon, whose son Brandyn Rybicki was injured in a July ambush in Iraq. Rybicki is being treated for his wounds in Seattle.

The program — called "Hero Miles" — also comforts the injured veteran, Julie Coon said.

"Amid all the fear and chaos, they can have a bit of normalcy," she said.

In its four years, the program has provided more than 13,000 flights.

Courtesy of The South Bend Tribune

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