Fallen soldier’s family booed in Arizona, saluted in Delaware

Delaware State News photos/Marc Clery

CAMDEN — In November, the family of Army Sgt. John Perry was reportedly booed as relatives were given permission to deplane early from a flight in Phoenix, Ariz.

The family was on its way to Dover Air Force Base to claim the soldier’s remains.

On Wednesday about 800 students from Camden and Wyoming did their best to answer those boos with patriotic solemnity and flag-waving as that same family passed Fred Fifer III Middle School in a funeral procession on its way to inter Sgt. Perry at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.

The Associated Press reported that Sgt. Perry died of injuries inflicted by an improvised explosive device attack on Nov. 12 inside Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan. His remains were flown into Dover Air Force Base and his family was summoned.

Sgt. Perry’s father, Stewart Perry, his mother and sister were on an American Airlines flight on Nov. 14 from Sacramento to Philadelphia with a transfer in Phoenix, when the flight was delayed. Mr. Perry, an ex-Marine, said the flight to Phoenix was 45 minutes late and the crew, fearing the Gold Star family could miss their connecting flight, made an announcement for passengers to remain seated to let a “special military family” deplane first.

Several passengers in first class booed, complaining that it was “baloney” and that they paid first-class fares, he added.

He said he doesn’t know if the passengers from Sacramento knew there was a Gold Star family on board or whether people sitting in the coach section complained.

Either way, he says he felt disrespected and hurt by passengers who booed him and his family.

Sgt. Perry’s funeral procession was scheduled to pass in front of Fred Fifer III Middle School at around 11 a.m. on Wednesday as it made its way down to Arlington National Cemetery.

Members of Team RWB (red, white and blue), a nonprofit veterans community group, reached out to the middle school’s principal, Brian Smith, with the procession details and asked if any students would be interested in honoring the Gold Star family as it passed.

“The school said on Tuesday that around 200 students would probably show up,” said David Chambers, spokesman for Caesar Rodney School District.

“But the principal told me that out of 840 students, nearly 800 went out. He couldn’t force them to go out so he just asked and they all volunteered to go out and show their patriotism and wave their flags.”

Several local military members who’d heard about the procession joined students.

“A handful of veterans were there too — they were really upset about the treatment the family had received before and wanted to show support,” said Mr. Chambers.

“Needless to say, this family needs to have a bit of faith restored. It was a big deal for these sixth through eighth graders. That was the whole point though, to just let this family know that the students of Camden and Wyoming were thinking about them and just wanted to pay tribute to the family while this soldier was on his way to his final resting place.”

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