Army Spc. Gary Sharpen was home on a two-week leave from his unit in Iraq. Melodie Sharpen said her husband was welcomed home by his family and even strangers.
“People were honking and waving,” Melodie Sharpen said. “One lady even stopped her car and said, ‘Thank you for your service.’”
The time flew by and before she knew it, Melodie Sharpen was dropping her husband back off at Bush Intercontinental Airport to fly back to the desert.
“He was wearing his army fatigues,” Melodie Sharpen said. “He had his backpack, which is Army regulated and he had his luggage.”
Gary Sharpen showed up with one 64-pound duffel bag, which is normally 14 pounds overweight. He wasn’t worried because he knew that American Airlines waived fees for active-duty military personnel.
The airline's policy says “military personnel on orders are allowed one bag in the free allowance up to 100 pounds.”
Sharpen's mother, Laura Lee, said not only was her son charged $50 in overweight fees, but the ticket agent was rude to him.
“I couldn’t imagine anyone treating one of our soldiers like that, telling them “so what” that they’re going back to Iraq,” Lee said.
Airline officials said they waive the fee only if a passenger shows military travel orders, and Gary Sharpen didn’t. His family argued that he wasn’t asked.
Melodie Sharpen said her husband had nothing he could take out of the bag to get it 14 pounds lighter.
“Did they want him to take out the pictures of our family? The toothbrushes that he was bringing over? The extra toothpaste he was bringing over? Deodorant,” she said.
American Airlines officials have agreed to refund Sharpen’s money if they see his travel orders.
However, his family said it’s not about the money, but about common courtesy for an American soldier.