Cpl. Nathan Kemnitz said, “At some places I’m treated like royalty and at some like a terrorist. There’s got to be something in the middle.”
Cpl. Nathan Kemnitz, a Purple Heart recipient and wounded veteran of the Iraq war, is speaking out about the humiliation he has faced recently from airport TSA agents and California State Capitol security guards while on his way a ceremony in Sacramento to be honored for his service to his country.
In 2004 Kemnitz was injured by a roadside bomb while on tour in Iraq. He is now blind in his right eye and has very limited use of his right arm, which he is unable to lift above his head. The Military Times reports:
when security guards at the state capitol building in Sacramento, Calif., asked him to remove his dress blue blouse “because he was wearing too much metal,” and TSA asked him to raise his arms above his head for the full-body scanner at Sacramento International Airport, he could not comply.
At the state capitol, the Marine’s refusal to remove his uniform top grew into a heated exchange between Kemnitz, a friend who was accompanying him and security officers.
At the airport, bystanders stared as the TSA security screener looked under Kemnitz’s medals, ran his hands under the Marine’s waistband and swabbed his shoes for explosives.
“What does a uniform and heroism represent if our own citizens — in this case employees of the TSA and security personnel — have no regard for them?” wrote Kemnitz’s escort, Patricia Martin, to Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki following the incidents.
Martin took photos and disseminated them to family, friends and members of the media.
“I feel so strongly that you need to know just how shamefully even a Purple Heart recipient/disabled veteran can be treated by some TSA and security employees,” she said.
Kemnitz told CBS, “At first, I was a little shocked and then it went to ridiculous. It’s almost like they wanted to make a show, like we will search anybody, we don’t care.” He then went on to explain to CBS that the “TSA screeners at Bob Hope Airport in Burbank treated him respectfully. They didn’t pressure him to take off his jacket, instead opting to question him about his service, examine his retired military ID card and have him walk through the X-ray machine with his arms down.”
TSA released the following statement: “… TSA has long recognized the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform and will reach out to this passenger to ensure his future travels are as simple as possible.”
The State Capitol also says they’re looking into the situation.