A disabled veteran and his service dog were abused by United Airlines staff, he has claimed.
Jim Stanek, a three-tour Iraq veteran suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, said employees of the airline kicked his dog, Sarge, and asked him if he was retarded.
In a YouTube video the Paws and Stripes founder describes his ordeal which began on July 16 at Dulles International Airport in Washington.
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Persistent delays to Stanek’s flight home forced him to spend two nights in hotels, running low on medication and on food for Sarge.
During what he calls his ‘nightmare’ two separate staff members kicked Sarge, later claiming to have been ‘startled’ by her presence.
On one occasion the force of the attack caused Serge to jump into Stanek’s lap in fright.
‘I was so angry and so confused about why she would be kicked,’ he says in the footage. ‘Sarge doesn’t have an aggressive bone in her body, she’s a mush.’
Jim Stanek suffers from post traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury
Stanek says he repeatedly asked if someone would help him after hearing about the delays but was brushed aside. ‘I was in a lot of pain, physically mentally and emotionally at that point.
‘I couldn’t get any help and that was the most disconcerting thing about it.’
At one point, having sought assistance from a customer service adviser with reading a booking confirmation email Stanek was asked: ‘Are you retarded?’
‘I completely lost all composure at that point,’ he says. ‘I started yelling, I used four letter words which I really try hard not to do.
When he finally did get on the flight, 48 hours after he was meant to take-off, Stanek says his dog was uncharacteristically frightened
‘I was done and there was nobody helping me. I was very distraught, very disgruntled.’
Stanek appears distressed as he talks about his ordeal in the 19 minute video.
‘I’m just absolutely distraught that my dog was kicked twice and that I was asked if I was retarded,’ he says.
When he finally did get on the flight, 48 hours after he was meant to take-off, Stanek says his dog was uncharacteristically frightened.
‘Sarge flies like a rock-star. She curls up in the foetal position she has no problems at all,’ he says on the video, which features cell phone footage of the dog on board the aircraft.
‘You can see that she is shaking like a leaf, her respirations are out of control, after having been kicked twice and spending all that time in the airport.
‘It’s as if she has PTSD from the situation and i cant blame her after all that we’d been through.’
Stanek said he wants to reach out to any other victims of abuse at the hands of United Airlines staff and to raise awareness of PTSD and TBI.
‘We need to get to the point where people understand that just because some of us disabled veterans don’t look disabled, I have both my arms, both my legs but I am still disabled,’ he said.
‘You cant see all my wounds but i still feel like I need to be treated appropriately. I’m not asking for a red carpet, but just treat me the way that I need to be treated.’