With the situation on the world stage since 2001 the need for soldiers to access travel services in an emergency has risen sharply. Congress and President Bush put their heads together and as part of the 2005 appropriations Defense Bill started a new program. The Program began to pay for the leave of Servicemembers, and was begun after another program had been paying for emergency Servicemember travel from donations of the American public. The public donation program is called Operation Hero Miles and it exists to assist Servicemembers with their travel and emergency travel needs. Operation Hero miles is a program that allows anyone to donate accumulated frequent flyer miles to troops and soldiers needing a flight home. This travel need can be for a variety of reasons, for relaxation or morale leave purposes, or for emergency family or humanitarian needs. These miles are made available to Servicemembers needing to return home in a variety of emergency situations.
A United States Congressman named C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger saw that there was a need for Servicemembers to have travel access in emergencies. He contacted a number of different airline companies in the United States and designed a program where people and members of the public could donate their frequent flyer miles. These miles would be made available for Servicemembers serving in Afghanistan and Iraq, or other overseas locales. The original program designed by Congressman Dutch was an overnight success, and the program has now been expanded to include members of the Servicemember’s family. Donated mileage can be used by family members to travel to visit wounded Servicemember’s both inside the United States and overseas. The program itself is s free service supported entirely by donated mileage from frequent flyer miles. It gives citizens and ordinary Servicemember’s the chance to use the generosity of the American people in supporting their Servicemembers.
Operation Hero Miles is administered by the Fisher House Foundation. Fisher House is a clearinghouse for different types of support for Servicemembers and military families. Airlines that participate in the program include Airtran, Alaska, Delta, Frontier, United, Midwest, Northwest, Continental, and American Airlines. The program helped lead to the Department of Defense paying for all leave related travel beginning in 2005 by action of Congress and President Bush.