PASADENA (CBSLA.com) — A wounded Marine is speaking out about his “humiliating” encounters with State Capitol security guards and Sacramento Airport TSA.
In an exclusive interview with CBS2, Cpl. Nathan Kemnitz told reporter Brittney Hopper he was being honored in Sacramento for his service in Iraq, where a roadside bomb left him severely injured in 2004. The 29-year-old veteran is blind in his right eye and has limited use of his right arm, which he can’t lift above his head.
When Kemnitz entered the capitol building he said security guards asked him to remove his blue uniform jacket “because he was wearing too much metal,” referring to his Purple Heart and other medals.
The Pasadena resident explained to the guards that his injuries made it difficult to take off his jacket.
“At first, I was a little shocked and then it went to ridiculous,” Kemnitz said. “It’s almost like they wanted to make a show, like we will search anybody, we don’t care.”
Patti Martin, of the Veterans Resource Center, was traveling with the wounded Marine and took pictures of the encounter.
“They never asked for his military ID to verify whether he was a veteran, if that’s what they were worried about, and they took him to the side, and the way they were patting him down, it was so obvious, as if he was a potential terrorist,” Martin said.
The guard and Martin were arguing about the screening when another guard stepped in, quickly patted Kemnitz down and ushered him inside.
Martin said the humiliation continued when Kemnitz arrived at the Sacramento International Airport, where TSA screeners hassled the veteran because he couldn’t raise his arms above his head for the full-body scanner.
Kemnitz said things went much differently when he was traveling through Bob Hope Airport in Burbank. TSA screeners didn’t pressure him to take off his jacket, instead opting to question him about his service, examine his retired military ID card and have him walk through the X-ray machine with his arms down.
TSA released the following statement: “…TSA has long recognized the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform and will reach out to this passenger to ensure his future travels are as simple as possible.”
The State Capitol also says they’re looking into the situation.
Both TSA and the State Capitol say everyone, no matter who they are, has to go through certain security measures.
Kemnitz said he wants to share his story so screening systems can be improved, especially for service members who are coming home after sacrificing for their country.
“They come home and get treated this way, I would lose respect for my country,” he said.