As a career military officer, my family and I must relocate often–at the pleasure of the DOD. We’ve been assigned to locales where flying was the only mode of transportation in order to report on time (Alaska, Hawaii, among others). Despite explaining our “must fly due to military orders” status, the airlines were very noncommittal in observing our sons’ severe peanut allergies. Peanut allergies are deadly. Period, dot. They don’t just trigger hives or itchiness. They trigger death. And Epi-pens are not a cure; they only buy 20 minutes to get to a hospital for real care. Most “pro-peanut” folks don’t realize that. In my military experience, since 1994, the airlines have flip-flopped on their peanut policy: American used to be the most accommodating and Delta, the least. I’m told that has since changed. Hawaiian was 50-50, and Alaska was mostly good. The problem is, you never know how the airline will help protect your children’s lives; so much is personality dependent in the absence of a law/policy change. Real change won’t happen until we can convince a senior member of Congress to advocate a change in the law. How many near-deaths have to occur on the air before authorities take accountability? Is your Reese’s peanut butter cup really that important? The most cringeworthy counter-argument I hear is, “well just don’t fly if you have allergies”, or “why should your kids’ deadly allergy impinge upon my airline snack?” Please realize those of us in uniform who have dedicated our lives–and the lives of our families–to serve our country rarely have the luxury to “just not go”. We report to duty as ordered and only ask for safe passage. This country is full of smart people; we know second-hand smoke is damaging to bystanders; likewise, airborne peanut allergens threaten bystanders even more dangerously–especially in an enclosed aircraft where we all breathe the same recycled air. For the sake of my children’s lives, I’ll gladly trade you a some Oreo cookies in exchange for those peanut M&Ms, if snacking on an airplane is so important to you. We are not looking for sympathy, just responsible citizenship.
Think beyond your scope, Fellow Americans, and thank you for your brotherhood.
Lt Col Tony Mena, USAF
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