Aid for veterans is much in the news: No one will confuse “Lest We Forget,” the epitaph engraved on countless memorials, with the motto of the Department of Veterans Affairs, mired in its inability to provide timely medical care to hundreds of thousands of disabled veterans. While government exposes its inherent ineptitude, some young warriors are taking matters into their own hands to make sure wounded comrades receive the care they and their families need. I wanted to share with NRO readers the story of Nine Line, founded by Danny Merritt — a brave soldier and member of the extended National Review family — and its efforts to help a real American hero, Eddie “Flip” Klein, and others who have paid dearly to protect our freedoms.
JACK FOWLER: Danny, tell the uninitiated what “Nine Line” means as a military term, and how that translates to your new mission.
DANNY MERRITT: A Nine Line MEDEVAC request is a call for help when you-know-what hits the fan in combat. In military terms, “you have to call in a Nine Line” means the most important call you will ever have to make. It’s a call to get a wounded soldier off the battlefield.
When they are out of harm’s way and back home, these soldiers still need and deserve our help. So I started Nine Line Apparel and Nine Line Foundation to continue to help them, not only along the road to recovery, but also as they try to rebuild their lives in the most normal of ways. Nine Line is going to be a lifeline and an advocate for these true heroes.
FOWLER: There are a number of foundations and organizations that aim to help wounded warriors and their families. What makes Nine Line different? What is the back story here?
MERRITT: We started Nine Line in order to help out a classmate — Eddie Klein, better known as Flip — of my brother, Tyler Merritt. While on patrol in Afghanistan last October, Flip lost both legs and his arm during combat operations. We wanted to be able to help Flip, other service members, and their families, and we were going to do it differently. The philosophy of Nine Line is simple: “One Service member and their family at a time.”
Nine Line is payback. After my first enlistment in the Army, I got accepted into Valley Forge Military College for their Early Commission Program. I was excited but realized quickly that I could not afford it. The Mustang Scholars Foundation provided a scholarship that helped offset the cost. That charity made getting a commission through Valley Forge Military College a possibility. It made it a reality. And it changed my life.
The guys behind Mustang — Tony McGeorge, Peter Connors, Tom Bentley, and others — came up with a direct way to support soldiers like me. Their kindness gave me a great push in the right direction in life. I have benefited from other people’s help, and now I am in a position to pass it along, to pay back to others the kindness shown me. My brother Tyler and I decided to help others in our own way, to do it directly, to make it personal. And that’s how Nine Line came about.
Nine Line Apparel and Nine Line Foundation is our vehicle to help others who paid a significant price fighting for all Americans abroad. Our mission is to help severely wounded service members by raising funds to offset their cost of recovery, to retrofit their homes and vehicles, to support their children’s education, to give deserving service members and their families that important additional support they need in order to get their lives back to normal — to a new normal — as soon as possible. Who better to help combat veterans than combat veterans?
FOWLER: Tell us a bit about Tyler and Flip — what class were they in?
MERRITT: Tyler and Flip were classmates at West Point, and their class motto was “Never Falter, Never Quit.” But this is more than just a motto — Tyler and Flip live by this term. And even after more than 100 surgeries, Flip continues to fight on. He has overcome some of the most physically and mentally tough challenges, and he seems to do it like it’s just another day.
Tyler is an Army captain, currently a SOAR Special Operations pilot for the elite 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, which was credited with delivering SEAL Team 6 to kill Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. The “Night Stalkers,” as it’s known, is not Tyler’s specific unit, but he’s among the top 1 percent of Army pilots.
FOWLER: Flying helicopters?