As part of a 2005 Defense appropriations bill, Congress and President Bush made official a program that had a lot of volunteer support from private individuals, and support from the commercial Airlines companies. Operation Hero Miles is a program for anyone wishing to donate their extra frequent flyer miles to be used by soldiers and troops needing transportation home for family, humanitarian, or Rest and relaxation needs. These miles are also available when a Servicemember serving overseas needs to return in an emergency situation.
The Operation Hero Miles was originally started by efforts from a United States Congressman. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger contacted about a dozen different airline companies in the United States about setting up a program in which people could donate their frequent flyer miles. These frequent flyer miles then would be available for Iraq and Afghanistan war zone Servicemembers who were on leave to fly home with. The program was a rousing success, and now has been expanded to allow Servicemember family members to use the mileage donated to fly to visit wounded Servicemembers inside the United States. It is a free program totally supported by donated frequent flyer miles, and gives both Servicemembers and ordinary citizens the ability to benefit from the generous donations of the American people.
Travelers that wish to participate in the project simply contact the Fisher House Foundation. Fischer house administers the program, and is the donation collection point for the frequent flyer miles. Airlines that participate in the program include US airways, United Airlines, Delta Air lines, Frontier Airlines, Airtran Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Northwest Airlines, Midwest Air lines, American Air lines, and Continental Air lines. Early in the program the Defense Department began to pay for leave travel, so the program began to deal with emergency travel and travel for dependents at that time in 2004.
Because of all the positive public relations that Operation Hero Miles has had, Congress Acted in January 2004 to pay for leave travel all the way to a soldier’s hometown and back. But the need for donations and frequent flyer miles is still great, the miles are put to excellent use reuniting families and injured veterans, as well as other types of Servicemember related emergency travel. The Defense Department has also added new support for emergency travel, on a discretionary basis, that didn’t exist before the Operation Hero Miles program, so it has helped with Servicemember benefits in a big way.