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His Jaw Wired, Soldier's Plea Falls on Deaf Ears at Airport

June 01, 2002|From Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO — A U.S. Army lieutenant whose jaw is wired shut because of a bullet wound he received in Afghanistan says screeners at San Francisco International Airport denied him permission to pass through security carrying wire clippers to be used to open his jaw in an emergency.

Lt. Greg Miller, a combat medic and member of a Special Forces patrol, was shot in Kandahar in April. The bullet passed through his jaw, severing nerves and leaving him without feeling in his mouth.

He said his jaw was wired shut at a hospital in Germany, and his doctor issued him a pair of wire clippers to carry at all times in case he became sick and needed to open his jaw to avoid choking.

Miller, of College Station, Texas, had flown to the Bay Area to visit his mother. He had been told at his local airport that the clippers were permitted on the plane. Security personnel there even gave him a sticker saying the tool was allowed.

But when Miller wanted to fly home, he said, San Francisco airport security personnel told him the tool, with a rounded blade less than an inch long, was dangerous and confiscated it, despite the sticker. Miller said that when he complained to an American Airlines official, he responded that he was too busy to help.

Miller then phoned several media outlets, telling them his story before boarding the plane. On board, flight attendants told him there was nothing on board to open his jaw. "What I think it is, is a lack of common sense," he said.

Airport spokesman Mike McCarron said a flight attendant or pilot would have held Miller's clippers had their importance been known--if, for instance, he had presented a doctor's note.

American Airlines spokesman John Hotard agreed, saying the Transportation Security Administration is still working out kinks in policy.

"One of the problems they're having is the uniformity of the process, and I think this is an example of that," he said.

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