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?
FOWLER: And what’s your military background?
MERRITT: I am an Army captain who just got off eleven years of active duty. Today I am a civil-affairs officer with the 360th Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne), which is based at Fort Jackson, S.C.
FOWLER: So you are helping Flip by creating and selling cool duds. Tell us about that.
MERRITT: We started out by selling TEAM FLIP Shirts for Flip’s wife, Jessica. We wanted to raise money to offset their increased living expenses due to the fact that she had to quit her job to be by her husband’s side full time. We then decided to go a step further: We created an apparel line and trademarked our brand and logo. Nine Line Apparel is a great-looking apparel line. Our product line is “Wear Your Cause,” and we make everything from polo shirts, t-shirts, and bags to caps and many other items. We have been helped out greatly by the military community, but we need to branch out. Our goal is to turn Nine Line Apparel into a household-name brand known for giving back to the military community and wounded service members.
Nine Line Apparel looks good, and a portion of every sale’s revenues goes to a great cause. Nine Line Apparel is proud to be sponsoring its first of many service members to come — Flip. We are also finalizing the start-up of The Nine Line Foundation, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit that will be run by Alyssa Fischer, a dear friend. Nine Line Foundation will be doing monthly fundraisers around the country to support TEAM FLIP and the Klein family. Our motto is “No Mission Denied,” and when our mission is complete with Flip, we’ll move on to help another brave warrior who needs support.
FOWLER: Give me the website and address for Nine Line so NRO readers can get themselves some righteous clothing.
MERRITT: Our Nine Line clothing can be purchased directly at www.NineLineApparel.com. To get involved with our efforts to help Flip Klein and his family and other wounded warriors, please email me directly [email protected] or at [email protected].
FOWLER: And here’s the Friends of Flip Facebook page so the good folks of NRO can learn more about this amazing American.
MERRITT: They’ll be shocked by how courageous one man can be.
FOWLER: So let’s wind this up by hearing about another dear friend of yours. Give everyone a clue about how Captain Daniel Merritt knows the folks at National Review, and feel free to share any story you might have about anyone named Merritt or Buckley who you might know from Stamford, Conn.
MERRITT: First off, I want to thank National Review. This is the magazine that I grew up with as a child. I knew about it because my father, Dan Merritt, was best friends with both Christopher Buckley and his father, Bill — whom I always called “Mr. Buckley.” I grew up in Stamford, right down the street from Mr. Buckley, and it is a well-known fact that I am the favorite godson of Christopher.
Anyway, I have a particularly fond memory of Mr. Buckley that not many people know. I was a young kid, about 13 years old, and I made my way down to Yacht Haven, the marina in Stamford, where Mr. Buckley’s boat Patito was docked. I was fishing off the boat all alone — or thought I was — smoking one of Mr. Buckley’s cigars. As I was fishing, the boat rocked back and forth, and Mr. Buckley appeared out of nowhere, catching me, a 13-year-old, in the act of smoking his cigar. I thought I was in big trouble. But he just looked at me and said, “Are you enjoying that cigar?” Scared, I said, “Yes, Mr. Buckley.” He said, “Good. They are expensive.”
— Jack Fowler is the publisher of National Review.