While the typical day for a TAMKO corporate pilot involves flying executives to and from various sites, other days are spent helping the nation’s wounded veterans and their families. TAMKO Building Products, one of the largest privately-owned manufacturers of residential and low-slope roofing, railing and decks, waterproofing and cements and coatings in the U.S., has a team of four corporate pilots that the company volunteers to fly wounded veterans and their families around the country in TAMKO’s private planes.
TAMKO has been volunteering its planes and pilots for the Veterans Airlift Command (VAC) since 2008. VAC is a nonprofit organization that partners with businesses like TAMKO to fly injured veterans and their families across the country for free.
TAMKO’s pilots have flown several missions, including three earlier this year. Some previous flights have involved flying wounded veterans from the hospital to their homes and helping military wives visit their recovering husbands. On one previous mission, TAMKO pilots Mitchell Ochs and Mike Bentley transported a recovering veteran to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington D.C. so he could be with a dying friend.
“It’s very fulfilling to be able to give back to a solider,” Bentley told The Joplin Globe.
“It’s really great to be able to take care of a veteran who fought for this country,” Ochs added.
Along with flying for free, the private planes offer recovering veterans a more comfortable environment than a commercial plane. Sometimes during VAC flights, plane seats are removed so that veterans with prosthetic legs can fly more comfortably. Also, commercial flights can be difficult and time-consuming, and private flights allow veterans to arrive at the hangar and board the plane without having to wait around or go through extended security checks of their prosthetic limbs.
VAC was founded by Walt Fricke in 2006 and has since flown more than 1,000,000 miles and completed over 1,000 outbound and returns trips. The organization looks for veterans and families in need of transport and then informs the 1,500+ VAC volunteers in its networks who locate an available pilot and plane.