CHICAGO – July 23, 2009. In his first press conference since visiting Illinois troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, Governor Pat Quinn today joined wounded Illinois veteran Marine Corporal Chad Watson to urge caring citizens to help servicemembers by donating their unused frequent flyer miles to Operation Hero Miles. Operation Hero Miles is a program that helps military families visit service members who were injured in Iraq or Afghanistan and are recovering in military hospitals around the world.
“I encourage everyone in the Land of Lincoln to honor those who fight for our freedom by supporting Operation Hero Miles,” Governor Quinn said. “Donating unused frequent flyer miles is a convenient way for the people of Illinois to show appreciation for our heroes, like Corporal Chad Watson.”
Chad was a marine corporal wounded in 2006 in Fallujah, losing his right leg above the knee to an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). He was transported to Bethesda Naval Hospital where Operation Hero Miles flew out his then-fiancé Jillian, sister, brother-in-law and best friend to be with him during his surgery and recovery. Chad’s family used Operation Hero Miles five times during his 18-month stay at Walter Reed Army Medical Center to travel from Illinois to Washington, DC. Chad and Jillian now live in Port Barrington.
"Operation Hero Miles gave my loved ones the opportunity to visit me in the hospital. Having them by my side made me feel like I could accomplish anything and was vital to my recovery,” Corp. Chad Watson said. “I am thankful to those who have donated their miles to help those of us who have been wounded in service.”
Operation Hero Miles is administered by Fisher House, a not-for-profit foundation that provides a “home away from home” at little or no cost for family members of military personnel receiving medical care at military and Veterans Affairs medical centers around the world.
Governor Quinn just returned from his fifth visit to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center and Fisher House in Germany. Landstuhl is often the first stop on a long road home for many soldiers wounded in Iraq or Afghanistan. As the largest American hospital outside of the United States, Landstuhl Regional Medical Center has 162 beds and, on average, 16 admissions daily, 37,000 outpatient visits monthly, 510 operations monthly, and three births daily.
To donate airline miles for families to visit wounded military personnel at medical centers, please visit FisherHouse.org. Over 17,000 tickets have been issued through donations to Operation Hero Miles, with an estimated savings of more than $22 million to military families.
Through Operation Hero Miles, airline tickets are available for families of military and can only be used for travel related to a medical condition. Servicemembers being treated as a result of an injury can also request a ticket to travel home while on medical leave with permission from their doctor.
Operation Hero Miles partners with the following air carriers:
Governor Quinn was also joined by Illinois Director of Veterans’ Affairs Dan Grant, United Airlines’ Vice President of Mileage Plus Robert Sahadevan, and Jillian Watson.