Another low for airport screeners

flydog

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Decorated WWII veteran detained, searched at airport
February 27, 2002 Posted: 12:37 PM EST (1737 GMT)

Editor's Note: CNN Access is a regular feature on CNN.com providing interviews with newsmakers from around the world.

PHOENIX, Arizona (CNN) -- Retired Gen. Joe Foss, 86, one of the most highly decorated U.S. war veterans, recently was detained at a security checkpoint at the Phoenix, Arizona, airport because he was carrying an item with sharp edges.

The sharp object turned out to be the Congressional Medal of Honor, which he had received in 1943 from President Franklin D. Roosevelt. CNN's Jack Cafferty spoke Tuesday with Foss about his airport experience and career.

CAFFERTY: General, Franklin Roosevelt, the president of the United States, awarded you the Congressional Medal of Honor, and your picture was on the cover of Life magazine on June 7, 1943. For what did you receive the medal and what can you tell us about the day you were given the medal by the president?

FOSS: Well, actually, I was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for action over Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific. ... See, I was the top ace during that time.

CAFFERTY: You shot down 26 enemy aircraft, is that right, general?

FOSS: That is correct.

CAFFERTY: That is amazing.

FOSS: We were the decoys over the enemy fleet a number of times flying over them at 12,000 feet and having everyone shoot at you. They try to get you, and then you dive -- take a vertical dive on the warship -- in the middle of the thing -- to draw fire so the torpedo planes could get in.

CAFFERTY: Unbelievable.

FOSS: I was on my way -- after a National Rifle Association board of directors meeting -- to go up to West Point and speak to the sophomore class there.

CAFFERTY: And you were going to take the medal and show the cadets up at West Point. You got to the airport, what happened?

FOSS: Well, you see, when I got to the airport, I planned on just going through as I normally have in the past. But they had this mass of checkers back there that seemed to hone in on me.

I had on a Western hat, which I normally wear, and this tie, which is known as a bolo tie, and a belt buckle that says, "Dakota Gun Collectors," on it and Western boots.

CAFFERTY: They eventually wound up taking the Congressional Medal of Honor away from you, didn't they, at the airport?

FOSS: Well, the whole deal was the medal and this little thing that was with it, which has a little fingernail file on it, and it has the Congressional Medal Society insignia on this thing -- I've carried it for years -- and that set off the thing when I threw my jacket in there.

They said, "Take everything out of your jacket," and I thought I had. I'm just not used to carrying a medal in my pocket here. So I threw the whole thing in a basket, and when that set that off, they said, "We thought you emptied the jacket."

And now it came back. And that started the fracas, and they said, "Off with your boots. Off with your belt. Off with your tie. Off with your hat."

CAFFERTY: Were they nice to you at this time? I mean, were they polite?

FOSS: No, they were very nasty. It was a nasty group of individuals that I couldn't seem to make understand. And I was trying to show them this medal, that it had all the inscription on the back there. About me receiving it from the president of the United States, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and so forth.

But no one seemed to know what was going on. And then I said, "What happens to the stuff you take from me?" And they said, "Oh, it's destroyed." And I said, "Well, you aren't taking that medal, that's for sure. Or this other thing." And so then the next number on the program, I had some keys and stuff that I -- and an imitation bullet thing -- it never was a bullet -- but it looked like a bullet that President Charlton Heston of the NRA gave me. And they took that.

I said, "What happens to all of that?"

"It's destroyed."

So then I said, "Can I keep any of it?"

And they said, "No, unless you go over there, write that desk right there and mail it back to yourself."

"Well OK." What happens, I step over there, and they say, "Off with your boots. Off with your belt. Off with your hat."

I said, "You just checked me."

And, of course, then in the meantime, my jacket gets lost in the back, and we horse around. And all of this operation took about 45 minutes or so.

Finally, I get out of here, and I get to the gate. And as the passengers pile on, I had a first-class pass to get on -- not pass, we paid for the ticket -- and they take me out of line, and the lady says, "Off with your boots. Off with your belt. Off with your tie."

CAFFERTY: This is the third time?

FOSS: That's the third time. And by that time, I was fairly warm.

CAFFERTY: I bet you were at that, general.

FOSS: And, of course, the questions that they asked and all -- it was so nonsensical, the whole thing. There's no way you could catch a terrorist. In fact, you'd be -- while you were looking at some clown like me, the terrorist would go by.

CAFFERTY: Now you talked to the officials at America West, the airline that was involved in this.

FOSS: They've been very nice.

CAFFERTY: There's been a visit arranged. Tell us about the visit that's upcoming here.

FOSS: Well the airline, America West, has been very nice. The vice president called me, and I personally talked to him. And the public relations director talked to me. And I'm going to have them out to the house to meet my wife and the rest of the tribe and let them know that we are not terrorists. We're just ordinary citizens trying to get on an airline to go someplace and back home.

CAFFERTY: General, let me thank you so much for a very entertaining and interesting, if unfortunate, story.

Let me also thank you for what you and your buddies did all those many years ago. Because I've got a hunch, without the likes of you back there during World War II, the likes of me wouldn't be sitting here right now talking to the likes of you.
 

I'm Q

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That is so flippin' sad. That's what happens when you don't require a high school diploma for a job, they don't even recognize a hero. Dumb basta*d's. Maybe once the screeners are all US citizens they might actually know about WWII.
 

ASApuppy

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You need to get through 10th grade History before you know anything about WWII. So, no such luck in the screeners ever knowing anything about WWII.
 

RJFlyer

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"Hello, welcome to Quickie Mart, er, screening. Frankfurt Eleanor Rosenbaum? Who's that? Off with your shoes, off with your tie, off with your hat..."
 

AWACoff

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I hate the screeners as much as the next non-terrorist. But when was the last time you ran into this decorated war hero? I doubt very many of us on this forum would have recognized this man. The screeners didn't know him. He could have been some rambling old man with alzheimers with his pants on backwards saying he is good friends with the President.

PS. Yes, I realize he doesn't fit the profile of a Muslim extremist.
 

skiddriver

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Hold on here a minute....

AWACoff,

You could have seen him on national television in the fall when he was a guest of honor at the opening of the Pacific Wing of the D-Day Museum in New Orleans. You could have also seen him be interviewed on TV at about the same time.

If you had you would have seen that despite your cynical and degrading characterization of this fine American, he does not ramble, nor does he wear his pants on backwards.

He does however, carry in his hand the highest military honor this country can give. And he is one of the now dwindling thousands of WWII veterans who ensured that you didn't have to get up at the beginning of school and sing Duetschland uber alles followed by a quick bow to the Emporer.

I could give a sh_t about being delayed at a security checkpoint, and if the high school dropout with the wand wants me to drop trous so he can check out my "package", fine. But their, and your, unwarranted abuse of someone we all owe such a debt, angers me beyond belief.

It's apology time AWACoff. Not to me, not to this board - an apology to the people who sacrificed so much to keep you free, and to whom you apparently hold nothing but contempt. Go read a history book. Or try this link, it might would be a good place for you to start....

http://www.sdpb.org/TV/foss/

Travis Allen
 

Pilotadjuster

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General Foss

Amen to the last post!

Might alarm you to know there are actually 86 year old men who do not have Altzheimers or their pants on backwards. Just read that interview and tell me who has ALL his faculties still working 100%! Does not at all sound like an addled old man. Hope to God I'm half that sharp if I make it to 86!

What a bunch of fools at security. Probably didn't have the slightest idea what the Medal is and what it stands for. Probably thought an 86 year old man was trying to sneak on board with that deadly weapon to.... now just what in the hell would he possibly do with that??

Actually, the fact that he was searched so frequently ought to tell you just how old and feeble he DOESNT look.

Foolishness continues, with high school drop outs on power trips...
 

con-pilot

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Let us not forget that Gen. Joe Foss was also Governor Joe Foss. He was the governor of South Dakota for two terms.

What happened to him at that airport was disgraceful, absolutely disgraceful. That the screeners should be fired for nothing else but stupidity is a given. Now that all screeners will be Federal employees it is going to get a lot worse, a lot worse.
 

AWACoff

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My statement was made with my tongue firmly in cheek but I stand by what I said. If I as an airline pilot could have the gall to have no idea who this man is...think about a security screener who can hardly speak english and doesn't have a high school diploma or GED. Think people. I've known a handful of our elders that would have told you anything. My own grandmother (bless her soul) had many delusions when she got older. There are some old folks out there that will tell you quite a yarn (and believe it themselves). You people are overreactionary politically correct zealots. You need to step into other people's shoes. Go beat up some Muslims after you're done wasting bandwidth on your non-effectual flag waving. Better yet, go volunteer at the VA hospital if you're such a patriotic American.
 

skiddriver

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AWACoff,

No time to volunteer at the VA right now , I'm locking on my retirement stuff after 22 years in the Marine Corps. No CMOH, but a DFC & Air Medal to show for my troubles on your behalf. I think I will swing by when I retire in a couple of weeks though. Picked up a few dings along the way that are going to need some attention sometime down the road.

Am I a patriot?....you bet. Moreover, I don't forget the sacrifices other folks have made on my behalf, whether it was General Foss, my parents, or any of the other thousands of folks in and out of the military whose shoulders we are all collectively standing on today, and who are all personal heroes of mine.

And maybe it's my Asian side, but I actually believe in all that "respect your elders" stuff as well.

You may want to go back a reread your first post. You (maybe unintentionally) maligned a great man. Your subsequent lack of remorse however, tells everyone all they need to know about you, as does your obvious disdain of those who believe in this country.

Fly safe (if you really do fly), and enjoy your time in America. It isn't perfect, but it could be if we all worked at it a little harder.

Oh, and you can bag the personal assaults. You aren't tough enough to get under my skin.
 

d328pilot

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You know I keep pretty quiet on most stuff. I am not in the military however if I saw someone harassing someone with the CMOH, in their possession no less, i think i would say WTF are you doing.....do i get arrested, so what. there has to be a line and that totally crosses it
 

d328pilot

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and if that didnt make any sense...its because stuff like that pisses me off so much...
 

d328pilot

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and one more thing...thank you skiddriver for 20+ years of service you have given to this country. I for one appreciate it greatly. And that goes to anyone else who has served!
 

Dude Groovy

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Skiddriver,

Lighten up Comrade. Joe Foss fought and others died so we can (among other freedoms) speak our minds freely. This is still the United States of America not the United State of the Marine Corps.
Like Joe Foss, I am upset with the current security process. I have myself experienced similar indignities at the hands of screeners and would change things big time if I were king. But in the current setup how was a screener to know it was a war hero he was screening? And if it were known that he was a war hero,
would he be entitled to preferential treatment? Let me tell you if Joe Foss and I were in a hypothetical chow hall line I might let him go ahead of me if it was meat loaf night, but if it were steak night, Joe's goin down!
That's my two cents. Bring it on!
 

skiddriver

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Well, you asked for it...

Dude,

Okay, you guys are taking up too much of my study time, but here goes.

1) First - Andy, thanks for the salute [that's what that was, right?], and d28pilot thanks for the kind words. Andy, if you get a chance to look at General Foss’s CMOH citation, you’ll see he got it while leading a mixed flight of Jarheads and Army dudes. Jointness at it’s best.

2) This is the United States of America. There is freedom of speech. Some folks think that means they can say what they want and no one else can call them on it. For starters, AWACoff doesn't know who Joe Foss is [which is okay, I only know because I'm a Marine and they make you learn that stuff], but then he insinuates that General Foss is a drooling mess and gee, wouldn't any 86 year old guy with the CMOH deserve a triple rogering coming through security? Anyway, this is the United States of America. That's why I could call AWACoff an unpatriotic mouth breather whenever I want, though I won't because I don't know that for certain. I love this place...

3) Then AWACoff decides that because a few of us object to his youthful characterization of General Foss as a mindless bed wetter, we must be racist John Birchers and he has the audacity to question my patriotism. Once again, his right. However, it's my right to point out that he doesn't have a clue as to what he's talking about, and while he's been out putting around the pattern with his private students, I was rolling down the chute dodging AAA with “United States” painted on the side of my aircraft.

4) Dude, as for your points (the following is my opinion only):

a) Anyone who earned the CMOH deserves every possible consideration - yes, even more than the average citizen. They are special to this country in the way that former Presidents are, even the ones who are well known enough not to get screwed with by security even if they were despicable draft dodgers. Does that mean preferential treatment? In my mind, heck yeah!

b) The screeners knew that General Foss had the CMOH, because they tried to take it away from him and he told them what it was. Anyone who has a CMOH is by definition a war hero. At that point, they needed to call a supervisor, not further harass the poor man.

c) I bet you that the VP and Public Relations manager at America West have Joe Foss's face and bio indelibly etched in their minds right now, and I would bet you that chow hall steak that they wish they'd had a greeter whisk General Foss straight from check-in to his seat in first class. At the time of this incident, the screeners were America West employees (though I’m sure they worked for a subcontractor). America West doesn’t think that this incident was just business as usual.

d) Finally, while I was not fortunate enough to meet him when he and his wife were here in New Orleans, a good friend of mine was his escort, and he said that the General was a stand-up guy and one of the nicest people you could hope to meet (as was his wife, though of course, she wasn't a guy). So you wouldn't have to take General Foss down to get to that steak first, he'd offer you cuts. ;-)

So here’s my last on this string (I need to get back to my FAR/AIM)….

Shame, shame, shame on America West and your employees for the way you abused Joe Foss. I hope you feel it in your bottom line as this story gets bounced around through AARP and the service and veteran’s organizations. Make amends as soon as possible or feel the wrath of a pre-baby-boomer boycott!

AWACoff – you are probably a pretty nice guy when you aren’t running down America’s heroes. Spend a little time finding out who they are.

Everyone else – freedom of speech means that people can actually point out when you say something stupid. They can even call you stupid for saying it. That’s one of the reasons why I think…….

IT”S GREAT TO BE AN AMERICAN!!
 

Dude Groovy

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Skiddriver,

Dude, chill out already. I reread AWACoff's post again to make sure I hadn't missed something. Nowhere in it does he say that Joe Foss is a bed wetter. or puts his pants on backwards, or really any of the stuff that you accuse him of saying. His point was simply that how were they to know he was a war hero. Answer; they could'nt!
The point of this thread is that security sucks. Yes it does. And most every airline pilot has experienced first hand the lack of logic inherent in it as currently practiced. And frankly, while I too am thankful to all the people who sacrificed in WWII and other wars, I personally don't like the idea of some folk's being "more equal" than others.
I will now paraphrase the rest of your post: Blah Blah...DFC..Blah Blah....Flag waving....I'm in the military..Blah Blah... Rollin in hot....ect.
Lots of people served in the military(myself included)...get over it.
By the way, I highly recommend Joe Foss's book.

Peace
 

Eagleflip

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Starship Trooper

OK, I've got to weigh in with another "IMHO diatribe."

This debate isn't about mindless patriotic drivel. You either believe in something or you don't. I strongly believe in this country and this way of life. I believe that military folks give a lot to serve their country. Do I think they are better than others? Well, the politically correct side of me says no, but I don't really believe that. I have seen way too many kids working Christmas in Korea, standing guard in the sands of Saudi, and sitting on a ship for six months at a whack not to feel that these are strong citizens. But this issue is beside the point.

The post was about Joe Foss' experience with security--so what if they screeners didn't know who he was? He, like any other American, was still due a measure of respect from the security clones. A larger issue with some on this board seems to be the importance of believing that people from his generation sacrificed quite a lot to ensure that the world would remain safe for future generations. I suggest that Joe Foss' generation gave of themselves more than any generation since, including the Vietnam era. What's so hard to believe about that? Why is it so difficult to honor those who have gone before? When did patriotism become a profanity, a concept to be shunned?

A good read is Robert Heinlein's book Starship Troopers. Don't watch the movie (a complete waste of film except the co-ed shower scene), get the actual book. Then tell me if Heinlein's concept of "citizen" is wrong or off base. Facist it is not--insightful to the likes of Joe Foss and his bretheren it is.
 

Jetstone

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!st class rebutal

Skiddriver,

Kudos to you sir for great response to these total idiots that gather here. It is people like you and Gen Foss that make me proud to be an American. As for the rest, well, they are the dregs that society must endure. Thankyou for serving your and my country.
 
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