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Mr. RUNYAN. I thank my colleague from New York (Mr. Grimm) for his support on this amendment.
Mr. Chairman, I rise today in support of the Runyan-Grimm amendment which seeks excess baggage fees being charged to servicemembers deploying or returning from an overseas contingency operation.
This issue was brought to light early in June when a group of Army Reservists traveling back from Afghanistan were charged $200 each for checking a fourth bag, some of which contained U.S. Government equipment like an M4 rifle, a grenade launcher, and a 9-millimeter pistol. The soldiers posted a YouTube video, titled, ``Delta Airlines Welcomes Soldiers Home,'' expressing their frustrations for what they had experienced.
After serving our country in theater and enduring an 18-hour layover on their trip home, the warm welcome this group received was a $2,800 out-of-pocket expense. This is an unacceptable slap in the face, whether it was intentional or not. Applying these charges to those headed to or returning from the fight is an insult to them and their service to our Nation.
My amendment would make none of the funds available by this act to be used to pay any commercial air carrier if that airline charges excess baggage fees for the first four pieces of checked luggage that are 80 pounds or less per servicemember. This amendment is a reasonable compromise, whose primary purpose is taking care of our warfighters while not allowing the system to be abused.
Our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines risk their lives to protect the freedoms we all enjoy. They take great personal sacrifices to defend our country. There is no doubt they should be provided with any reasonable accommodations while traveling on orders to or from theater of operations. Most importantly, they should not have to endure personal financial hardship as a result of traveling to and from overseas contingency operations. $200 is a large amount of money to pay out of pocket, especially for those who are enlisted.
It shouldn't take a YouTube video and bad publicity to convince any of us to do the right thing. With this amendment, we are sending a very strong message that our warfighters are individuals who are serving our country and not for an addition to a profit margin.
The amendment is endorsed by the VFW and the National Guard Association of the United States. I hope all my colleagues will stand with me in support of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines by voting in favor of this amendment.
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