Wounded Marine Lance Cpl. Christian Brown Humiliated On Delta Airlines Flight

Cpl. Christian Brown, in Afghanistan before he was injured (via Washington Post)

Cpl. Christian Brown, in Afghanistan before he was injured (via Washington Post)


As I read the following story, courtesy of the Washington Post, I could feel the anger building inside me. This is one of the worst stories to come out of the airline industry lately, for anyone to treat a Wounded Marine this way, are a disgrace to this country. And all Delta will say, is they are looking into the incident. Here is the story:

On Dec. 13, 2011, Marine Lance Cpl. Christian Brown was leading his squad on a foot patrol in Afghanistan’s Helmand province when he stepped on an explosive device that blew off both his legs, one above the knee, the other below his hip. He also lost part of his right index finger.
Last Sunday, almost exactly a year since those grievous injuries forced him to learn to walk on two successive pairs of prosthetic legs, Brown was “humiliated” to the point of tears on a Delta flight from Atlanta to Washington after being clumsily wheeled to the back row of the plane, according to a complaint sent to the airline by an outraged fellow passenger.


Worse yet, according to retired Army Col. Nickey Knighton’s detailed “customer care” report to Delta, efforts by several fellow vets to shift Brown from coach to a first class seat offered by another flyer, were rebuffed by the crew. Flight attendants insisted no one could move through the cabin because the doors were being closed for takeoff, she wrote.


Knighton, a former helicopter pilot with nearly 30 years of service, who turned out to be seated in the same back row as Brown, assumed that because he boarded last, he would be seated up front for comfort and ease of exit in case of emergency. Instead, she wrote in a complaint obtained by “She The People,” he was squeezed into a narrow aviation wheelchair that “bumped up against stationary aisle seats as he was wheeled through the aircraft.


[He] was obviously humiliated by being paraded through the aircraft and was visibly upset. I touched Brown on his shoulders and asked if he was okay. Tears ran down his face, but he did not cry out loud.”


What Knighton did not tell Delta, perhaps because she did not know, was that Brown, 29, was also very ill with a high fever. He was returning, via Atlanta, from a hunting trip in Alabama for injured service members to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. Injured on his second deployment to Afghanistan after joining the Marines in April, 2009, Brown has spent nearly a year at the complex outside Washington, D.C.


After six months in the hospital, including a period when he was in a coma, Brown moved into a two-bedroom apartment on the medical campus that he shares with his mother, Lyn Braden-Reed. He undergoes daily physical therapy to adjust to his new legs, she said. Friends and family follow his progress via Facebook posts and photos.
Brown, a strapping six-footer when he enlisted, was flying back to Washington with a military “escort buddy,” but his mother told me that had she been with her son, “it would have turned out a little bit differently. I just can’t imagine what it was like for him, being that sick. He had a 104-degree fever and he was shaking. He was quite obviously sick.”


Brown and his mother, who live 25 miles north of Memphis in the town of Munford, declined to offer specifics about what he actually experienced on the plane.


But while Knighton’s complaint reflects controlled rage, retired Army Lt. Col. Keith Gafford, also on the flight, held nothing back during a phone interview.


“I have been flying with Delta for a gazillion years and this crew treated Chris worse than you’d treat any thing, not even any body. I did 27 years in the military. I have seen a lot of things and have seen a lot of guys die, but I have never seen a Marine cry,” said Gafford, who served two tours in Iraq.


“What the kid said was, ‘I have given everything that I can give and this is the way I am being treated? This is how I will be treated for the rest of my life?’”


In fact, Gafford added, two first-class passengers offered to switch seats with Brown, “but the flight attendant said we have to go. How many times have we sat on the tarmac for 45 minutes? You could close the door and still make an adjustment.” The Texas native blasted the crew for being “hard as woodpecker lips.”


Knighton said time was hardly the issue since the plane took off five minutes ahead of schedule and arrived at Washington Reagan National Airport a quarter hour early. She also said crew members refused to divulge their names or discuss the situation, although one attendant suggested she speak to the captain upon landing. By the time she reached the cockpit, the captain had vanished. The first officer declined to engage in conversation, and urged her to contact customer service.


Michael R. Thomas of Delta’s corporate communications office in Atlanta offered this emailed statement regarding Knighton’s letter:


“The story in no way reflects either Delta’s standard operating procedure or the very high regard we hold for our nation’s service members. We are sorry for the difficulties that transpired and are investigating this event to determine the appropriate next steps.”


Asked to list possible next steps–reprimands, fines, suspension, termination–or estimate how long the probe might last, Thomas sent a second email: “As previously stated, we are actively looking into the incident and have no additional details to share at this time.”


What Knighton, a longtime Delta flyer, seeks is simple. “I don’t want another wounded warrior, a veteran, or anyone with any type of disability to be handled in this fashion. It was just senseless to me to the point of, ‘I can’t believe this is happening.’”


This is not the airline’s first snafu involving military personnel. In June 2011, Delta ignited a national firestorm when two soldiers posted a YouTube video about their experience catching a connecting flight from Baltimore to Atlanta after an 18-hour layover from Afghanistan. Several in the group of more than 30 people were charged $200 each to check a fourth bag. Under public and Congressional pressure, Delta soon announced it would allow military personnel and dependents to check extra bags for free.
This time, the solution may be comprehensive sensitivity training for crew members.


Meanwhile, the Marine–who learned of his promotion to corporal while recovering in the hospital here–can’t wait to return home for good next week with his mother. Between his graduation from Munford High, where he played baseball, and his enlistment, Brown studied for the ministry at a non-demoninational seminary in Pensacola, Fla. But by 2009, “he felt a different calling. God wanted him to go in the military,” said Braden-Reed.


Brown is uncertain about his long-range plans, but is exploring the possibility of shifting gears yet again, this time to the classroom as a Marine Corps instructor. He may also want to revisit his earlier calling to the ministry, or become a motivation speaker who turned a personal ordeal into the ultimate teachable moment.


But first there is the near term back home.
“I want to go hunting with my dad and enjoy some good holiday food,” he told me. He’ll also continue rigorous physical therapy.
And does he think he’ll ever fly Delta again?
“Hell, no.”


The quoted article above is courtesy of The Washington Times Marine Amputee Gets Help From Fellow Vets Angered By Delta Airlines


Cpl. Christian Brown in physical therapy, after losing his legs in Afghanistan (via Washington Post)

Cpl. Christian Brown in physical therapy, after losing his legs in Afghanistan (via Washington Post)


This Marine almost gave his life for this country, and he is treated this way!!!  This story angers me even more, every time I read, “What the kid said was, ‘I have given everything that I can give and this is the way I am being treated? This is how I will be treated for the rest of my life?’ I become more enraged!


Here is the link to Delta’s facebook page Delta Facebook


Their is also a facebook page made by his family to support his recovery Support LCPL Christian Brown


Delta Issued an Apology:

December 14th, 2012 by  in delta.com

Many of you have expressed concern about a Washington Post blog account about a Marine who had a negative experience on a recent Delta flight. We too are unsettled by this incident.

We attempted to reach the customer as soon as we became aware of the situation, but so far have been unsuccessful in speaking with him directly.

An internal review is already underway to understand what occurred and take appropriate action. What is clear is that we did not care for this customer the way we should have. This incident doesn’t reflect the care with which Delta people serve our customers every day, and it doesn’t reflect the high regard we hold for those who do and have served our country.

We have the utmost respect and admiration for our active duty military and veterans who make tremendous sacrifices to protect and sustain the freedoms we enjoy every day; and our Delta team is typically very good at showing their respect through various means of recognition. Unfortunately, we failed in this situation. We strive to exceed expectations with every customer, and particularly regret when we fail a member of the military or person with a disability. We are taking this isolated situation very seriously and doing what we can to make it right with the customer.

Our efforts to do better for our customers are constant, but incidents like this one always make us pause to revisit service standards. We are doing that now; and will make this as right as we can for this customer, which will help to prevent situations like this in the future.

Thanks for voicing your concerns,

Allison Ausband, vice president – Customer Care


UPDATE: 20130511

Brown has been awarded the Silver Star for actions that took place about a week before he was wounded by the IED.

Brown responded when a designated marksman was critically wounded in the head, calling in a medevac and leading his squad to where it was safe for the helicopter to land. Under heavy fire, he carried the wounded Marine on his back the final 300 meters to the landing zone, his citation states.

Brown said the morale of his young, inexperienced team members and the life of the wounded Marine, Lance Cpl. Christopher Levy, depended on him staying cool and thinking fast.

Levy died of his wounds a few days later in Germany. But Brown’s actions allowed Levy’s parents to see him one last time.

“At that point in time, I didn’t really have time to give a pep talk,” Brown said. “I called one of my junior guys over, I told him to hold my weapon, and I started moving. I was talking to Levy and telling him that we had him. … I just started running until I couldn’t run anymore. My legs were just on fire.”

Six days later, Brown lost his legs in an improvised explosive attack – one leg at the knee and the other at the hip. He’s now with Wounded Warrior Battalion East.



What are your thoughts?
44 comments on “Wounded Marine Lance Cpl. Christian Brown Humiliated On Delta Airlines Flight
  1. That’s fucked up. I’ve been through several years of PTSD therapy and anger management at my local VA clinic, and today I am particularly thankful for the lessons I was taught there and skills I developed. Otherwise..? Oh I’d be batshit crazy right now.

    • I think that this is one instance when the rest of us would join you in going “batshit crazy”! Some airline steward would probably have been slapped if I’d been on board. I am an older lady (retired military wife) who is definitely vocal, and who believes in common courtesy. His treatment was SO uncalled for. I hope you are doing well. Invisible wounds are so often the worst to deal with. Thank you for your service.

  2. More than once DELTA has lost my bags and shuffled myself along with other service men around as we were somehow in (their) way. Even saw a blind man with a seeing eye dog have to threaten to sew them just so he could make his flight. They didn’t want the dog on board. But this is by far the WORST I have ever heard of a wounded fighting man being treated by anyone anyway for any reason ! This flight crew is a DISGRACE to the American people and every single one of them should be fired and made to publicly say that they are sorry for having acted like they did.

    Semper Fi

  3. I am so sorry he was treated like this and Delta may loose a lot of money because of their stupid, people that didn’t care for him at all. I can’t see this happening to our troops on any level…the need to be help in the greatest respect for what the have given and sacrificed. I am a mother of a Service member and would hate to see him treated like this. Hope things get better for him. God Bless All

  4. Delta has had a habit the last few years of doing things that treat our active duty and wounded warriors at best as 3rd class citizens. I spend much of my time during the year traveling for work and have seen some good, some bad, some ugly things while on the road. I have also seen (and this is primarily when I travel on US Airways) some of the kindest things done for military/veterans/wounded warriors by both US Airways staff and by fellow passengers. As a vet myself, I have always appreciated seeing brothers and sisters in arms being taken care of. One gesture I have always been moved by was people giving up their first class seats to those in uniform. I myself have also done this on a couple flights because it is just the right thing to do in my mind. I have also seen where airline staff have ignored their own rules to take care of guys/gals in uniform such as gate-checking larger bags on mainline flights (usually they will only check them through to the final destination), or made it a point to come back and thank them for their service, or upgraded them onboard if there were empty seats up front.

    Which is why I am just enraged hearing about a story like this where there was such little consideration given to someone who served our country and paid dearly for that service. That Marine deserves more than he got from Delta. A lot more. And to find out that they weren’t even willing to allow others to volunteer to swap seats – it is just so much easier to get someone in and out of the front of the plane and a heck of a lot more comfortable. And really, it wouldn’t have taken very much time to swap two passengers…even if a wheel chair was involved. As others have said, whats another two minutes when many planes are late getting out of Atlanta anyways??

    I personally already disliked it whenever I was forced to take a Delta flight on the few times I couldn’t find one on another carrier…mostly because of the bad customer service the past few years (lost bags, long delays, dreading the sprint between concourses in Atlanta or Detroit…especially Atlanta…flying through Atlanta is a nightmare (and a colleague of mine coined it the airport where “dreams go to die”). With this latest story, I will strive to make an even greater effort to stay away from Delta. Simply “looking into it” isn’t an acceptable response by the U.S.’s second largest carrier…and one which at least in the past had been contracted for transportation by the military.

  5. im the farther of a wounded vet he is proud to have served and spent mounths in a va hospital now to delta im going on vacation i go on 3 or more a year i will not fly with delta ever again you will not have a sale even if it is 99% off that could get me to fly with you tell your ceo to get ready for big cuts in his pay as bussness go down in the near future

  6. I’ave never used this type of language before on F/B (or any other site) but….
    FUCK YOU DELTA AIRLINES !! S/Sgt. Robert R. Holt USAF 66′-70′ Grandfather of a U.S. MARINE.

  7. As a retired Delta Agent, let me say how sorry I am that you were treated in such a horrendous manner. I always put my service members in First Class. It saddened me to hear how my once great and respectful company has changed. I retired early due to these changes, it became to much, the only thing that mattered was an on time departure. A late departure resulted in a three suspension without pay, absurdity at it’s best. Once again, I’m so sorry.

    • Dear Delta Agent: Thank you for stepping up and writing your apology. This is certainly a start. Now, perhaps you can use your courage and contacts to become a ‘ heroic ‘ agent of change. The performance measurements need to be changed system wide. On-time departures are not as important of a quality parameter as treating the lesser of ‘ US ‘ with the greatest standards of kindness and care. Profit motives need to be examined and prioritized. I pray that you may become the ‘ agent of change’ that this industry and others need so desperately.
      James A. Vestermark
      West Point Class of 1974

  8. my son and his many friends are marines and i am so sickened by this story, this man deserves our up most respect and admaration. he gave his best so but heads like the idiots who treated him like dirt could live free, but this person or persons would b the first to ask this man to save them from harm. sounds like the people who killed or lord then some asked him to save there soul. im sorry if i had of been there i would have kick butt or voiced my oppinion loudly. mom of a marine

  9. Lookws like Delta should do a revamping of their entire Human relations dept. I’m sure these can be fixed , but you have to follow it though and make sure it gets done, more Training and caring employes would be a start.

  10. There’s no excuse to treat anyone like this, no matter who they are, but most especially one of our service people! He deserves the highest respect and gratitude for what he did for all of us!!! I wasn’t fond of Delta before, now, for sure, I will join the others who have said on here that they will never fly Delta again! They should be ashamed.

  11. Utterly Disgusting! I am a mom of military, wife of military and I will personally never fly on Delta again! This brave young man should have been put in first class and provided every comfort available. Every member of the boorish crew should lose their jobs. I will tell all my friends about this awful act and I am sure they won’t fly Delta again either. Totally Disgraceful Delta!

  12. I have petitioned Delta Airlines to provide an account of the event. Anyone can sign the petition located on the Change.org website- Delta Airlines: Provide and accounting for the treatment of Lance corporal Christian Brown

  13. it will be a cold day in hell before i fly delta…the nerve of the whole crew onboard that flight…to treat anyone, especially someone who gives them the freedom to carry on with their lives everyday, is so disgusting it leaves me speechless…delta has a lot to answer for and especially a full and righteous apology to Christian Brown and his family

  14. I submitted the following to the Delta blog site (http://blog.delta.com/) –


    Thank you for providing more information on this story, please continue to update as soon as possible. I must say though I find it hard to fathom how after two days Delta Airlines cannot speak directly with Lance Cpl. Christian Brown. There are many ways of communicating these days, including in person, if the situation warrants it.

    Knowing that the holiday season is about to begin in earnest, I imagine that a weeks’ time is sufficient to get the entire story out. If of course customer relations are as important as Delta claims, both sides of the story and any remediation if needed can be provided by Wednesday (19 December 2012).

    Please know that I am reserving any conclusion until hearing what both sides have to say. I do find it difficult to believe that any other findings will be made contrary to the first-hand account provided by Col. Nickey Knighton.

    After flying Delta for as long as I can remember, it would be difficult for me to forgo history and chose another airline to fly me. But I will. I will not stand idle and do nothing when one of my brothers or sisters in arms is so gregariously humiliated if such a case did occur.

    Patiently waiting,
    Steven Townsend

    Unfortunately the comment has not been posted yet, I posted this under a comment to Allison Ausband’s post.

  15. You guys are a bunch of morons!! It’s not Delta just because one crew screwed up. If every company was always criticized for their employees actions there would be no good companies. Delta trains their employees very well to provide excellent customer service just because there is one bad Apple doesn’t mean you chop down the tree. Grow up people!! You all sound very uneducated and I’ll bet don’t know anything in customer service yourselves otherwise you’d never say such down right stupid things. I do feel sorry that the crew was actually arrogant and unrespectfull enough to stop and assist a very deserving man immediately. However that is not Delta. It’s that partcular crew who really made a mistake. But I’m sure all of you who’ve posted such arrogant comes wouldn’t know a thing about that. You’ll are perfectly mistake free. Delta you are awesome and I will continue to only fly on you because you care and I’m positive the situation is being handle without having to publicize it to this ridiculously moronic group.

    • Hey, dip shit…If one of the delta crew behaved like this you might have ONE point !
      But no , i was the whole CREW… The crew is Delta. So that makes Delta’s training very sorry… and the captain… I bet he’s your hero. Buddy I’d like to know if you work for Delta ?
      You have the same attitude as the Delta crew, we’re morons because we voice our outrage… Again THE CREW IS DELTA AIRLINES… Right now Delta Sucks BIG TIME.

    • Nat, you are the one who comes off sounding like a moron or ignorant (or both). I spend 90% of the year travelling for work…and I think this gives me license to have an opinion on this matter. I am also in a customer-facing position so I indeed know a hell of a lot about customer service.

      In short, while I appreciate your opposing viewpoint…politely and with the utmost courtesy, go play in traffic.

  16. Amazing, so many of you are such haters. Sad world. The main problem are Americans in general. The passengers of today created this problem, by jumping on forums like this. They demand on time performance and that is what they get.
    As well as FAA safety regulations, once the door is closed it is out of the crews hands. All passengers have to remain seated. Also seems like any number of passengers should have stood up immediately before he got to the bac row and offered to change seats. But no, it is much easier to blame big bad airline. Shame on you and all of you!

    • Sorry Shannon, YOU don’t know what your talking about… The Captian of an Aircraft is in Total Control of that aircraft… He desides if it flyes or not. if you are unruly he can have you removed from the A/C… He’s the Captian, he’s the boss and the buck stops with him !

  17. This is one of the many reasons I choose not to fly Delta Air Lines. If given a choice between flying on Delta and reaching my destination quickly or riding a Greyhound bus and getting there in a couple of days, I’ll buy a book and read it on the bus. I am a 12-year veteran of the US Army, a Vietnam Era veteran, and seeing one of my brothers or sisters in arms treated like this triggers memories of how we were treated back then. I often wonder if the principle shareholder of Delta Airlines stock might be Hanoi Jane, who loves our military so much.

  18. For those calling for termination of employment of those who treated Lance Cpl. Christian Brown so poorly, I say let them stay with Delta. If their employment is terminated, they could end up at another airline and have more opportunities to treat passengers poorly. Boycott Delta and let them keep their unpatriotic, disrespectful employees.

  19. If people really want to get the message across to Delta’s deaf ears, Boycott the airlines. Then they would have to wake up and smell their own B.S. for a change. No way you should ever treat anyone including someone who gave so much for his brothers and sisters and all of us.F Delta…..

  20. I have flown Delta for years. The majority of my experiences have been great. When I first started reading the article I thought to myself, it’s not Delta’s fault but the fault of the crew. There are bad apples in every bunch. However, when finished reading the article I read the apology from Delta December 14th, 2012 by Allison Ausband in delta.com

    “Many of you have expressed concern about a Washington Post blog account about a Marine who had a negative experience on a recent Delta flight. We too are unsettled by this incident.” and “We attempted to reach the customer as soon as we became aware of the situation, but so far have been unsuccessful in speaking with him directly.”

    The “Marine” and the “customer” has a name. His name is Cpl Christian Brown.

    You would think if Customer Care were doing an internal investigation Ms. Ausband would know this Marine’s name.

  21. time for all veterans and service members to abandon Delta. This is the third story I’ve heard of this airlines shameful treatment of my fellow servicemen. And the same rubber stamped response from “customer service”. It is obvious to me that this is not another isolated incident but a prevailing attitude among Delta personnel. I don’t recall ever having flown on Delta but I can assure you I would walk before getting on one of their aircraft.
    Good thing I was not there I would have definitely been thrown of the plane because I would have forced the situation to a proper resolution.
    This continuing attitude by Delta cannot be tolerated. Time to protest them in person at their offices.

  22. Just read the article about our brave devil dog. Let it be known that my family and friends will be removing Delta from any or our vacation or travel plans from now on, even if it costs us a few dollars more or a longer lay over. I’ll pass the word around my base and let it be known how Delta treats our young men and women who put their lives on the line. I’m sure Delta will be losing more military and prior military members from taking their flights and their abuse.

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