Our Southwest Family shares an attitude of gratitude toward our Military Heroes! The month of November has been dedicated to our Military Heroes with four themes: #Service. #Honor. #Sacrifice. #Celebrate. A “Thank You” can be a simple handshake or hug in the airport, a personal note of gratitude on a patriotic card, or volunteering your time with a military support organization. Our messages of appreciation positively impact the men and women wearing the U.S. Military Uniforms who protect our freedom across the world. A heartfelt “Thank You” boosts their morale and encourages them to stay the course, even through difficult times and long separations.
The following messages were written by YOU, our Southwest Customers and Employees. These messages will soon arrive at U.S. military bases around the world delivered by our non-profit partner organization, A Million Thanks. A Million Thanks is approaching its 10 th anniversary, and Founder Shauna Fleming shared, “We are 6.3 million letters and counting past the original one million I hoped to send to soldiers, and we have no plans to stop. Our military has never stopped fighting for us and for our freedoms, so let’s never stop thanking them!” To learn more about A Million Thanks and how you can participate, visit www.amillionthanks.org.
Enjoy these messages written to our soldiers from across the nation:
“Thank you for your service and your sacrifice. I appreciate your help keeping my family safe.” — Scott, Southwest Customer, Arizona
“It is such an honor and joy to assist these men and women who fought for the freedoms we all enjoy today. They have changed me in so many ways and again I must give thanks to them for all they have done and continue to do for us.” — Southwest Employee Ellen, Phoenix
“Thank you for your commitment to our country and my freedom. I am so grateful for you! May God richly bless your dedication and your family also. I am praying for your protection and safe return home.” — Southwest Customer, Las Vegas
“May God continue to bless you and watch over you, I pray for our world’s peace and protection from all harm for you. Please be encouraged because America cares!” — Southwest Customer
“To the Troops! Great job, keep up your spirits, and may God bless you. It’s people like you that make this country great.” U.S. Army 80-84 & Southwest Customer
Thank you for making our Country a better place.” Southwest Customer, New Orleans
“Dear Armed Forces, thanks for keeping America safe and for protecting our freedom and liberty. We Bostonians know the value of being strong together and we are with you all the way!” Southwest Customer, Boston Strong
“Our Purpose at Southwest Airlines is to connect People to what’s most important in their lives, and a lot of what we do on a daily basis would not even be possible without the service of our Military and their service to our Country. The sacrifice of these men and women and their families does not go unnoticed. I try hard not to miss an opportunity to say Thank you!” —Southwest Employee Danielle, Denver
“Just one great big THANK YOU! Come home safe! Denver Cares.” — Southwest Customer, Colorado
“Thank you for all you do and believe your sacrifice doesn’t go unnoticed. So often our liberties are taken for granted. Please know that I am forever grateful of you and pray for you to hurry home.” — Lyndsey, Southwest Customer
“From a Paramedic faithfully serving and protecting at home, to YOU the Brave Soldiers protecting our freedoms, THANK YOU!” — Southwest Customer, Philadelphia
“Special thanks for your service. We live in the safest and best country in the world because of all you have given and do for us. Have a peaceful and safe holiday and come home safely. Texans Care!” — Southwest Customer, Texas
“To my brothers and sisters in arms that have served in the military, and to those whose families have lost a son or daughter, father, mother, sister or brother when making the ultimate sacrifice for our country. God Bless them all!” — Southwest Employee, Baltimore
“I am humbled by your bravery and dedication. Please know that you are appreciated for everything that you do. Stay positive and come home safe.” — Southwest Customer, Alexis
“My Dad proudly served in WWII as a bombardier on a B17 in Europe during the years of 1941-1943. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t look to the sky and know that he is watching over me now, as he was watching out for all Americans back then. Thank you to ALL of the service men and women who so unselfishly keep us safe.” — Southwest Employee Cheryl, Community Affairs
“We are on a return flight after visiting friends, while you are away defending our freedom and without your efforts to protect our country, this trip would not have been possible. Many thanks!!!” — Drew & Sara, Southwest Customers
“Whether our appreciation is shared in person, or through other channels Southwest Employees and our Customers along with our military partners want to say, THANK YOU to our Military Heroes. And, it always comes from our hearts.” — Southwest Employee Laura, Community Outreach
Do you have a Military Hero you thank each day? Share your photos with the hash tags #Celebrate and #MilitaryHeroes.
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This is a guest blog co-written by Lieutenant Colonel Steven Harrold, Founder of The Knights of Heroes Camp, and Camper Andrew Maholic, who lost his father in Afghanistan while serving our nation. Southwest has supported The Knights of Heroes Camp by donating tickets since 2008, and we are humbled by the courage and perseverance demonstrated by the children who participate in The Knights of Heroes Camp. Lieutenant Colonel Steven Harrold, USA Air Force, founded KOH in 2006.
On November 27, 2006, Major Troy "Trojan" Gilbert was killed in Iraq when his F-16 crashed while protecting ground troops being overrun by the enemy. During his memorial service a picture of Troy and his two boys on a hike drew my attention. I kept asking myself, "What now? Who is going to take his children camping and fishing?" Knowing these kids needed strong mentors and a place to share their experiences, the concept of the Knights of Heroes (KOH) Camp was born.
Through the grace of God, we held the very first KOH Camp the next summer, and each summer since 2007, children of our fallen heroes and adult mentors from around the world come together and spend a week in the mountains of Colorado. Over the next five years, we had the honor of watching campers like Andrew Maholic grow from youths into fine, strong young men and women. At 17 years old, Andrew plans to attend his sixth year of camp this summer, and he has moved into a leadership role as a part of the KOH Camp staff. Each year, Andrew’s enthusiasm grows, and he finds new challenges that capture his attention. The transformation that takes place when Andrew finds his passion is nothing short of remarkable.”
KOH Camper, Andrew Maholic lost his father in Afghanistan when he was just ten years old. Andrew received the Silver Star in recognition of his father’s heroism and service to our nation and was filmed as the subject of a 60 Minutes special “Ambush in Afghanistan” during his first experience at a KOH.
My Dad, Master Sergeant Thomas Maholic, was killed in Ghecko, Afghanistan, on June 24, 2006. He was a Green Beret, who is credited with saving the lives of his nine-man team following a two-day firefight with hundreds of Taliban fighters. Just two years after my Father’s death, I attended my first KOH summer camp when I was 12 years old.
Throughout that first summer, I developed a passion for rock climbing. When I was faced with a large boulder or problem, I would think of my Dad. I knew he would be proud if I tried something new, and I decided to give it a shot. I got my harness and other necessary gear on, and with my mentor encouraging me, up I went and, in doing so, I changed from Andrew to Spiderman in a matter of two minutes! I knew Dad would be proud! These highlights of my time at KOH kept me going. One day, with the help of my mentors, who helped me focus my energy, I hiked up Pikes Peak! These awesome moments and activities aren’t the best thing about KOH Camp; it is being around other Campers who have also lost parents and can relate to me. And it is the adult mentors who listen and will do everything they can to help. That is why I love The Knights of Heroes Camp … Rise UP!”
For the past six years, Southwest Airlines has provided transportation for Campers such as Andrew to attend KOH in Colorado. In 2013, Southwest provided transportation so that 85 Campers were able to attend.
November is Military Heroes Month at Southwest! Share your photos using #Sacrifice and #MilitaryHeroes.
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At Southwest Airlines, we are thankful for the deep roots we have established with our military partners that support our Heroes. Together we join hearts and hands to bring meaningful support to our Veterans and their families. One of the organizations Southwest supports is the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). The following are IAVA Member Reflections on their Southwest experiences.
“Southwest Airlines gets it.”
“I wanted to share how wonderful Southwest Airlines has been to me as a disabled veteran. In October 2012, I was fortunate enough to attend a retreat through Wounded Warrior Project. It was the first time my service dog flew with me. The airline was great about ensuring I was in the front seat where she would have room to lay at my feet, and the Flight Attendants offered her water and were very sweet to her. In March 2013, I again flew Southwest Airlines for Storm the Hill, an effort to break the VA backlog. The airline was wonderful in meeting our needs, ensuring we were first on so my service dog could sit at my feet, and giving her ice to chew on throughout the flight. They offered to help us get off and get our bags and their general attitude of service helped make a difficult, long flight much more enjoyable. Thank you for all you do to help the veterans!”
- Melinda Russell, U.S. Army Captain, 2013 Storm the Hill Participant
“My airfare graciously donated by Southwest Airlines allowed me to shine when I needed it the most.”
“I want to thank Southwest Airlines for essentially "landing" me my dream job. As a longtime member of IAVA, I was invited to travel to Washington, D.C. to speak on behalf of not only my family members, but many of my friends who are veterans. Due to my lack of fulltime employment, I was nervous about applying to become a “Stormer” with IAVA because I was living off my disability compensation as my only source of income. I didn't know how I could afford the trip from Wisconsin to Washington, D.C. to do what I love: helping our nation's veterans. When I received the call and was asked to join IAVA, I was so thankful and overwhelmed! I boarded my Southwest Airlines flight and spent the week in Washington, D.C.
"As a veteran seeing our nation's capitol for the first time, I have never felt more proud of my service in the Marines. During that week, I received a call to interview at the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs, where my dream job had become available. Due to my successes in Washington, D.C., my confidence was through the roof, and I landed my dream job. My airfare being graciously donated by Southwest Airlines allowed me to shine when I needed it the most. Thank you Southwest Airlines for all of your support, it means the world to me.”
- Tegan Griffith, U.S. Marine Sergeant, 2013 Storm the Hill Participant
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The following is a guest post written by James McLaughlin, Chairman of The Honor Flight Network. He escorts the Lone Eagle and TLC (Their Last Chance) Veterans to Washington D.C. to visit their Memorial on Honor Flights.
On Saturday October 5, I had the pleasure of escorting a group of War Veterans to Washington, D.C. to visit the memorials dedicated in their honor, which pay tribute to their service and sacrifices in World War II for the sake of our freedom. These elderly veterans have been waiting for months for their turn on an Honor Flight. Due to the recent government shutdown, I was not sure what to expect, but I knew we could not pass up the opportunity for these vets.
Over the past several years, I have enjoyed escorting these groups to Washington from March through November. This group was primarily what we call “Lone Eagles,” the term used to identify individual Veterans located in cities that do not have one of the established Honor Flight Hubs located across the nation. As the Chairman of the Honor Flight Network, I always embrace the opportunity; however, this trip was different because the memorials might be closed, and our group, which had traveled some distance to be there, might be denied access. I truly did not know what to expect.
The site that greeted us upon arrival at the WWII Memorial was indeed different due to the barriers and the majestic water fountains being turned off. Lucky for us the National Park Service personnel had (previous to our arrival) opened the barriers to allow veterans and visitors access to the site. We were able to view the memorials and walk around the site unobstructed, including the Korean, Iwo Jima, Air Force, and Vietnam Memorials, which had previously been barricaded, but were also opened for our group. The Lincoln Memorial remained barricaded, and we did not gain entrance there. Though it was different, we accomplished what we set out to do with our Honor Flight.
I am truly grateful for the free flights provided to World War II Veterans by Southwest Airlines through their generous sponsorship to The Honor Flight Network. Over the past four years, Southwest has provided thousands of free flights for our veteran heroes, and the impact these WWII veterans experience visiting their Memorial and taking an Honor Flight is hard to describe. The most memorable comment that I hear often repeated is expressed at the conclusion of their trip …”This has been one of the greatest days of my life.” What more can you ask?
Southwest Airlines is the official Commercial Carrier of The Honor Flight Network and provides tickets for veterans to fly on Southwest for their Honor Flight.
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Today, I am reflecting back upon the 2012 Military Heroes Month and Southwest’s commitment to our Troops, Veterans, and their families. We have been privileged to share a glimpse into these heroes’ lives featured in the stories throughout the month on service, how we honor the Military, the sacrifices these heroes make, and how we celebrate the brave who fight for our Freedoms. For most of us, turning a calendar page from November to December signifies that the holiday rush has begun, along with the countdown to the end of the year. For our deployed Troops, Veterans, and their loved ones, the holidays are even more stressful when separation and sacrifice join to sharply point out the cost of their allegiance to our nation. When duty called, they answered selflessly and reliably, and they serve for all of us, securing our Freedoms and the right to celebrate as we individually choose. Let’s pledge to keep our Heroes and their families close in our hearts and faithfully do our part to support them, not only in November, but all through the year.
Several members of the Nuts About Southwest Blog Team shared with us who their Military hero is in their life and why, and we ask you to do the same by commenting below. Krista Crow My family has lots of ex military men. My husband and 2 Uncles were in the Navy, my father was a Marine, and my Grandfather was in the Army. I have always been proud of this, but my military hero is not one of these men. My military hero is not even in the military... yet.
My nephew, Josh, is a senior in high school and has decided to join the military. He currently plans to join the Air Force when he graduates. I couldn't be prouder of him for making this decision. Joining the military and being away from home is never easy, but with the things as they are now, it is a huge commitment to make to defend our country. My brother and his wife support his decision as well, which is also a hard thing for parents to do right now. It is what he has always wanted to do, to jump start a career in law enforcement after he completes his 4 years. The whole family couldn't be happier for him. So for Josh and all the seniors who join the service and go out into the world and defend our great country, I can only say- Sincerely from the bottom of my heart, Thank You. You make all of us so very proud. Aaron Hay My Grandpa, Melvin “Mel” Tyborski, Korean War veteran, passed away this year on Memorial Day at 81 years. He was awarded a bronze star for his heroism while defending South Korea against the Communist invaders from the North.
After his service to our country, he continued his patriotism by being involved in a great number of activities including his assistance in welcoming home Desert Storm troops at Milwaukee’s General Mitchel International Airport (MKE). He was a true promoter of patriotism. Growing up, I remember he always wore his bronze star hat when he came to visit. I remember a few stories about his involvement in the Milwaukee community where he continued to promote the love for our country.
We all get caught up in the holiday rush. It’s very easy to forget our freedoms during this time. I’m grateful for my Grandpa, Veterans, Troops and their heroic actions and sacrifices so that we may continue to enjoy our freedoms. Whitney Bartels I often wonder if my generation truly understands the meaning of freedom. I may never have to fight for my freedom firsthand, but I will always hold a reverence for those that have served our country. My grandfather is a World War II Veteran and he serves as a constant reminder that my freedom came at a price. The war may have ended over 60 years ago, but the stories of his time in the war live on in our family- stories that resonate with me still today. I am thankful and honored to have a grandfather who has taught me not only the meaning of freedom, but sacrifice, honor, and pride. And I know that long after he is gone, we will still be telling his stories, and will always remember the price he and many others paid for our freedom. Brian Lusk My dad served in both the US Navy and the Army Air Force during World War II. Seems he got moved to the Air Force to meet a need for pilots. He wound up as an aircraft commander on a B-17, and the war ended before he could ship out to the Eighth Air Force in England. From Dad, I got my love of aviation.
My mom’s father served with the Texas National Guard in World War I in France, and she has his scrapbook, which is filled with stories first from training camp in Texas and then from Europe. We learned that he first landed in France in the Brittany region with his unit at Dinard and then spent some time at nearby St. Malo. His book is full of recollections from this period, but as he moved to the front, northeast of Paris, for the final battles of the war, his entries cease as he came next to the horror and reality of modern warfare.
It was the first and maybe the last time he ever left Texas. My grandfather died when I was a baby, so I never knew him, but Mom tells me he never spoke about his time in France. That’s why the scrapbook is so precious to our family. I can only imagine what he thought when the men my mom and her sister would marry joined the military. I am so proud of my Dad and Grandfather, who faced hardship and danger, for their service to the country. Brooks Thomas As a youngster, I had little regard for history, or the stories about World War II my Grandfather would regale me with. What I do remember was that he was a navigator on a B-17. While the details and intricacies of his stories are faint, it's not lost on me that he regularly put himself in harm's way to protect many of the Freedoms I enjoy today. It seems inauthentic to romanticize stories I can't even recall, and I have a hard time putting into words my admiration for my Grandfather. I didn't know him well. He died while I was young. But he was a good and brave man, and undoubtedly a hero to many. As a youngster, I had little regard for history, or the stories about World War II my Grandfather would regale me with. What I do remember was that he was a navigator on a B-17. While the details and intricacies of his stories are faint, it's not lost on me that he regularly put himself in harm's way to protect many of the Freedoms I enjoy today. It seems inauthentic to romanticize stories I can't even recall, and I have a hard time putting into words my admiration for my Grandfather. I didn't know him well. He died while I was young. I do know this -- he was a good and brave man, and undoubtedly a hero to many.
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Will Rogers is known for saying—“We can’t all be heroes. Some of us have to stand on the curb and clap as they go by.” Imagine standing at the base of a monument, and, for one silent moment, remembering a time gone by, friends that didn’t come home, and a cause greater than oneself. For many Veterans that is the experience and the joy of taking an Honor Flight to Washington, DC, to see the monument that was erected for their heroic service to our country. For the past four years, Southwest Airlines has been lucky enough to be a part of making these Veterans’ dreams come true as the official commercial airline of Honor Flight and to date has donated more than $2 million to connect more than 4,500 WWII Veterans with their memorial in Washington D.C. Today, we are excited to announce that we have renewed our support of Honor Flight, donating more than $1.2 million in travel over the next three years. This relationship with Honor Flight is especially close to my heart, because my own dad was able to take an Honor Flight and visit his memorial in Washington D.C. last Veteran’s Day. The Honor Flight Network formed in 2005 with the mission of ensuring that every World War II and terminally ill Veteran could experience honorable recognition and find closure surrounding their service by visiting the World War II Memorial in Washington D.C. Time is not on their side as it is estimated that there are 800 to 900 WWII Veterans passing each day. The 117 Honor Flight Hubs scattered across the nation are committed to making the pilgrimage to Washington and helping these Veterans. Through their Honor Flight experience, Veterans are showered with appreciation and applause in airports, on bus rides, at hotels, and along the Memorial route. Many stop and salute. It isn’t unusual for a Southwest Honor Flight to be greeted with a water canon salute from the D.C. Fire Department upon arrival. Many of our Southwest Airlines family members have experienced these Honor Flights when Veterans are traveling and in our care, and their sentiment is the same – what an honor to help, serve, and be around these Veterans. Here are just a few recollections from Southwest Employees, starting with my very own: My 89-year-old father, Francis Sandall, took his Honor Flight last year on Veteran’s Day, Dad’s voice chokes with emotion when he shared with me, “Going on an Honor Flight was a tremendous experience, and one I never expected to do. I wholeheartedly agree that every Veteran should experience an Honor Flight.” Louisville Customer Service Agent Julia Adams looks forward to every opportunity to work an Honor Flight. “We just hug the Veterans and joke around with them—enjoying quite a few laughs!” Recently, Community Relations & Giving Employee Amber Montelongo was on her way home and her flight was an Honor Flight that was filled with happy, light-hearted Vets who were tired from their amazing trip to Washington, D.C., but not too tired to crack jokes with the Passengers around them. San Antonio Customer Service Manager Nancy Newsom is the airport liaison for all Honor Flights from here, and “we decorate the gates with patriotic flair and give these heroes a proper send off! I was invited to go as a Guardian last August and was the Guardian for two Vets, Ernie and Bill. My guys were just wonderful, and I loved to hear their stories. I'm also going on the next Honor Flight along with my Teammate Donna Peterson and her husband. I'm so proud of Southwest Airlines for their heart and commitment to the military and this wonderful organization.” Reno Cargo Agent and Honor Flight Reno Founder Jon Yuspa shared, "Its closure to their service and it opens a whole new chapter to friends and family who sometimes did not even know their loved one had honorably served. Some Vets talk about this being one of the single greatest days of their lives." Southwest has a long history of supporting those who have fought for our country’s freedoms, and it gives me great joy to see our Company give back to these heroes. Jim McLaughlin, Honor Flight Network’s Chairman, told me that he’s heard over and over from these Veterans that their Honor Flight experience is one of the greatest days of their lives. That’s all the reward we need.
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On this day in 1914 (then) President Woodrow Wilson officially established today, June 14, as our Nation’s Flag Day. Old Glory’s intricate design had previously survived many alterations; however, today’s 50 white stars on a deep blue cloth, representing our 50 states and 13 alternating red, white and blue stripes, which represent the original thirteen colonies, survived. Today, our flag proudly waves across the nation in front of businesses, schools, parks, and shopping malls and steadfastly symbolizes America.
As you reflect upon what the American Flag means to you today, join our Southwest family as we offer our gratitude to the National Blue and Gold Star Mom’s Association. The National Blue and Gold Star Mom’s Association is a non-profit organization formed by parents whose sons and daughters honorably served (Blue Star) in the United States Armed Forces and the (Gold Star) whose sons and daughters paid the ultimate price and lost their lives, serving our country and protecting our freedoms.
Below is a guest blog from Stacey Holley who is the proud Gold Star Mother of SPC Matthew Holley, Combat Medic – 101st Airborne. Matthew was killed in action on November 15, 2005, while deployed to Taji, Iraq, during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Stacey also is a veteran of the U.S. Army and the co-author, along with her husband John, of the book Medals, Flags and Memories, the true story of “The Holley Provision,” a law that ensures the honorable and dignified welcome home of America’s Fallen Heroes to their hometowns.
Strength and Honor in the Folded Flag by Stacey Holley
As I sat to reflect and contemplate the meaning of Flag Day, I couldn’t help to consider the strength, honor, courage, and grace carried in the colors of our flag of the United States of America. Some refer to it as the Stars and Stripes; the Red, White and Blue; or, more lovingly, as Old Glory. We’ve gazed upon it as we utter the words of the Pledge of Allegiance or stand in reverence to the playing of the Star Spangled Banner. As the symbol of our colors unfurl there’s wonderment for many, and yet, for many others across our great land, there is a supreme understanding of the ultimate sacrifice our flag symbolizes. Those I speak of represent America’s Gold Star families, and the symbolism I refer to is in the presentation of the folded flag. For over ten years our nation has been at war and during the conflicts that have been fought in both Iraq and Afghanistan, nearly 7,000 members of our Armed Forces have given the ultimate sacrifice. In each case, during the military memorial service, a family member is presented with our nation’s colors. The presentation is given with the utmost respect and care. The colors are folded crisply thirteen times, each fold symbolizing the honor due the family of an American Fallen Hero. On the final fold the stars are uppermost, giving honor to our national motto, “In God we Trust.” Once the final fold is complete there is a dignified transfer from the honor guard to the Officer of Ceremony. The Officer solemnly approaches the family, goes down on bended knee, presents the flag with the straight edge forward, and offers condolences; “On behalf of the President of the United States, the United States (service of record) and a grateful nation, please accept this flag as a symbol of our appreciation for your loved one's honorable and faithful service.”
Reflecting back to the day my husband and I laid our son to rest, I’m reminded of the powerful fourth stanza of our beloved national anthem. A stanza rarely heard, and, yet perhaps, the most meaningful to those who have lost a loved one defending our nation’s freedoms:
“Oh! Thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is Our Trust."
And the Star - Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”
This Flag Day please take a moment to gaze upon with reverence and honor our national symbol, giving thanks to the brave men and women who have chosen service over self and given their tomorrows for our today.
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Calling all patriotic and kindred spirits to attention! In celebration of Armed Forces Day, Southwest has joined with the Armed Forces Foundation, The Palazzo ® Las Vegas, and Omaha Steaks to salute our nation's wounded veterans from San Antonio Military Medical Center with several days of entertainment, dining, and relaxation in Las Vegas during a special “Salute the Troops” celebration. This is the second year that Southwest has linked hearts and hands with the Armed Forces Foundation and the Sands Corporation to provide leave for more than 80 deserving Wounded Warriors and their guests. Their liberty began early this morning when they arrived at the San Antonio Airport to a cheering crowd that greeted them like the superstars they are. For the next few days, these Wounded Warriors will enjoy a break from hospitals and doctor visits to enjoy fun times in the Vegas sun. May is Loyalty Month for Southwest, so it seemed the perfect time to show our deep appreciation to those who have shown such loyalty to our Country and its citizens by fighting for our freedoms. As the celebration for these heroes continues, we’ll update this blog with stories and photos from the events. So, be sure to sneak a peek often, and don’t go AWOL! Because, after all, sometimes what happens in Vegas gets posted here! Thursday, May 17 – Saturday, May 19 | Celebrating the Wounded Warriors Sally Harbeson, Southwest Airlines Charitable Giving & Community Relations Employee, also had the privilege to participate in this event and show her appreciation to this group of Wounded Warriors. Reflecting back on the Salute the Troops event 2012, I am left with some distinct thoughts. Most of these patriots are young—way too young to have seen what they have and way too young to deal with the aftermath. But the lasting impression is of their fierce loyalty, both to this country and to each other. The brothers who served together, and look after each other. The two “now best friends” who in their words were “blown up together” and are helping each other heal. All of these brave men and women who, even if they do not know each other, are visibly protective. And lastly, their willingness and openness to share with those of us who truly have no idea what they are going through and making us feel like part of their family. I salute you all, and will be inspired by your tenacity to overcome hardships on a daily basis. Simply put, thank you. My Southwest heart is still overflowing from the amazing experience with the Armed Forces Foundation and Sands Corporation during “Salute Our Troops” 2012! Beginning with the Troop’s arrival and the water canon salute, a police escort to the Palazzo, and the glorious red, white, and blue decorations and entrance lined with a cheering crowd, each Veteran was greeted to a flag waving and patriotic salute! The Veteran’s next few days were filled with scrumptious meals, generous gaming, spa treatments, and other unique moments, including a performance by the Blue Man Group, which was a true “vacation” from the reality of doctor visits and hospital rooms that these special guests so richly deserved. The Salute Our Troops experience was a vivid reminder of why I appreciate all U.S. Troops and their families. As we celebrate the upcoming Memorial Day Holiday, please join me to recall the words of our National Anthem. As it plays in our hearts, let’s sing along and send our deepest gratitude and respect as we salute all who have fought so bravely to protect our Freedoms. Wednesday, May 16 | On the Ground in Vegas Our Wounded Warriors landed in Vegas mid-morning, and were met with a water cannon salute before arriving in the gate area to receive an amazing welcome from a sea of Customers and Employees. The Wounded Warriors arrived by police motorcade at the Palazzo Hotel and were again greeted with the cheers of more than 400 Venetian and Palazzo team members before arriving in the resort atrium for a grand welcome ceremony. Students from the Adelson School Campus sung the National Anthem while the Nellis Air Force Base Honor Guard presented the colors. Executives from Las Vegas Sands, Southwest, Armed Forces Foundation, and Omaha Steaks addressed the crowd as well as NASCAR driver and local resident Kurt Busch. Our Customers, Employees, and all of the partners participating certainly know how to let these troops know that we all hold a special place in our heart for those who so bravely sacrifice themselves to serve our country. Kati Tucker, Southwest Airlines Charitable Giving & Community Relations Employee, had the opportunity to celebrate these heroes in Vegas, and is forever changed by her interactions with the Wounded Warriors. Having been raised in an incredibly patriotic family, I've always been stirred by a love for the red, white, and blue. I could always smile proudly as an American and sleep soundly in my bed knowing I was safe and protected. But recently, that thinking has changed a bit for me, as I have a brother who serves in our military. Things are more personal now As I look at these 45 men and women who have laid it all on the line and think about those who cannot be here with us today, it stirs my entire being. I can no longer just smile proudly and sleep soundly, but I am now moved to take advantage of each and every moment because THEY paid the price for my freedom to do so I count it an honor to get to take part in an event like Salute Our Troops. I am privileged to spend time with some of our nation’s heroes; with men like LCT Dexter Sadler, who not only volunteered but fought to be deployed after 9/11 because he wasn't the "traditional age." I was also blessed to meet a gentleman named SPC Christopher Levi who is in Vegas for the first time ever, and who I was able to witness take his first swim in a pool since he lost both of his legs. Being a part of an event like this changes your perspective forever. So to the 45 heroes that I'm blessed to spend time with today, to the husbands, wives, sons, and daughters serving all over the world, and to my brother, thank you for your service!
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This year, MD Anderson’s Pediatric Education and Creative Arts Unit joined forces with Southwest Airlines Houston Employees to prepare young entrepreneurs to hold a successful Pediatric “Lemonade Day!” This creative and fun program was the idea of MD Anderson’s art teacher, Mindy LeBoeuf, as a way to collaborate art and academic instruction in hospital classrooms. Her creative idea, “When life gave me Lemons, I made lemonade,” fulfilled the need to provide an interactive experience for children undergoing treatment at MD Anderson. The program combines business lessons (provided by Southwest Airlines Marketing) with art, math, measurement, and graphing, which are skills needed to run a successful business or in this case a successful “Lemonade Day.” The activities began April 30 and concluded May 4 with Pediatric participants doing all planning, ordering, designing advertisements, and, finally, serving the product:Lemonade. To round out the fun day, Shrinky Dinks were made on site and given to lemonade “Customers.” Below are a few recollections from both the MD Anderson and Southwest Volunteers who collaborated with these young entrepreneurs: “This year’s Pediatric “Lemonade Day “was a big hit! Southwest Employee Volunteers and MD Anderson staff joined together to make lemonade and work alongside the children to hand out the drinks and pass out other trinkets and toys I loved being at the hospital, meeting these amazing children, and having a fun day surrounded by those who make a positive difference each and every day.” – Shannica Joshua, MD Anderson “Our pediatric patients were able to apply what they learned in the classroom to a real event and enjoyed passing out lemonade to hospital patients, families, and guests. I was particularly impressed at the way the children jumped right in, took charge of their lemonade stand, and made it a success with their energy and smiles. The “lemons to lemonade” stories that were shared by people who visited our lemonade stand were touching and showed that even in the face of huge obstacles, people are able to find reasons to stay positive and persevere.” - Melinda LeBoeuf, MD Anderson “Who doesn’t LUV Shrinky Dinks?! I had a BLAST getting to revisit my youth and sharing lots of silliness with the patients and parents during the MD Anderson Lemonade Day. We shared lots of laughs as we witnessed artistry in the making! Parents and children had a great time creating one-of-a-kind works of art – and then we got to watch ‘em shrink in the pint-sized toaster oven! BONUS!! I wish the event lasted longer – I found the time went by all too quickly! Looking forward to my next adventure. I still have a smile on my face from my experience. LUV those children!” - Hilary McHenry, MD Anderson “I volunteered with the MD Anderson Lemonade Stand and it was so much fun to work with those wonderful children and great staff.” - Jynell Holiday, Southwest Airlines “We had a great day! Southwest was represented in our usual stand-out fashion! This is a cause close to my heart…due to many close encounters with cancer amongst my family and friends who were treated at MD Anderson. I am very passionate about this cause and enjoyed the day!” - De Lyce Schlepphorst, Southwest Airlines “I had a blast volunteering at MD Anderson. It was a pleasure giving back to the community. I am always amenable to help out. So, thank you for the opportunity. “ - Alicia Fletcher, Southwest Airlines Southwest applauds the MD Anderson mission and “Core Values” of Caring, Integrity and Discovery as outlined by the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, to “Make Cancer History”. Let’s lift our cups to these young entrepreneurs and share another round of lemonade – and make it pink, please, for these courageous and spirited children!
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What comes to mind when you think of Chicago? Possibly Garrett’s popcorn, deep dish pizza, the Sears... ahem... Willis Tower, shopping the Magnificent Mile, visiting Millennium Park or Wrigley Field? Bet you did not think of the Chicago Children’s Choir!
The Choir was the vision of Christopher Moore in the late 1950's, as our nation struggled with our conscience and the resulting Civil Rights Movement. Moore’s vision was a multiracial, multicultural children’s choir which would bring Chicago’s inner city youth, from diverse ethnic and social economic backgrounds, together through music, and thus foster harmony and understanding that would ultimately change generations.
“He believed that youth from diverse backgrounds could better understand each other and themselves by learning to make beautiful music together,” said Jessica Ramirez, who is with the Chicago Children’s Choir. Last week, a small group from the Youth Choir (ages 8 - 13) delivered a toe-tapping, finger-snapping performance to a thrilled Southwest audience that spilled over three balconies at our Headquarters building in Dallas. The children were poised, charmingly animated, and loaded with talent. They sung both a cappella and accompanied by piano, drums, and shaker instruments. The choir is led by their equally animated and talented Conductor Whitney Covalle, who said, “We are truly thankful for Southwest Airlines’ support, which makes these performances possible!”
Their song repertoire combined Eastern European, Latin American, South African, and Americana Folk music. The choir is comprised of 3,000 youth from 11 Chicago neighborhoods, from early elementary through high school, with many members seeking professional musical careers. The elite 100 Member “Concert Choir” performs both in the United States and internationally with a trip planned to Italy later this year. The Choir CD's are available online for purchase at: http://www.ccchoir.org, featuring songs such as “Songs on the Road to Freedom” and “Open Up Your Heart.”
Southwest is privileged to sponsor this amazing organization, and we believe in their mission of spreading harmony through music around the world.
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The following blog post was written by retired long-time SWA Captain Ted Lawson... During the week of April 8-15, a group of residents of Breckenridge, Colorado, including me and fellow retired long-time SWA Captain John Schnobrich, held the 5th annual Wounded Warriors Family Ski Week. This event is held annually to invite a group of Wounded Soldiers from around the country and Puerto Rico to Breckenridge for a week of skiing, ice skating, fly fishing, professional counseling, and reconnecting time with their families. All expenses are paid by the Wounded Warriors Family Adventures, a 501(c)(3) organization. Southwest Airlines has been gracious enough to provide transportation to the soldiers from their homes and bases around the country. All adaptive ski and fishing equipment and lessons are provided by the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center. The goal of the program is to provide a vehicle for severely wounded soldiers a way to reconnect with their families and the outside world through the use of the facilities here in Breckenridge. We attempt to show the soldiers that they can function normally in today’s world and can participate in activities with their families that they before had thought impossible.
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Last November during Military Heroes Month, Southwest Customers and Employees wrote their heartfelt thanks on more than 1,000 postcards provided by Southwest in airports from Seattle to Ft. Lauderdale, which were then sent to military bases across the U.S. and distributed to Troops awaiting deployment. This was the second year that Southwest and A Million Thanks joined hands with the postcard campaign to send cards with notes of thanks, veteran’s memories, and even lipstick kisses! Since a picture is worth a thousand words, below are some photos of United States Marines, stationed at Camp Pendleton in California, awaiting deployment to Afghanistan with their Southwest Airlines postcards from home in their hands. We are honored to join with Companies like A Million Thanks and The Mission Continues to let our troops know how much we appreciate their service to our country and all they do to protect our Freedom. To learn more about A Million Thanks, visit www.amillionthanks.org.
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Imagine you are a U. S. soldier deployed and far away from home with the holiday season just days away! How would it feel to receive a message of love and support from home at this special time of year? During November, Southwest’s Military Heroes Month, Southwest Customers and Employees wrote more than 6,000 patriotic and inspirational messages on our “We LUV Our Troops” cards. These individualized and unique messages included children’s drawings, veterans’ recollections, quick lipstick kisses, holiday remembrances, and simple messages of support and appreciation. The A Million Thanks organization will send these cards to military bases around the globe just in time for Christmas. Southwest provided “We LUV Our Troops” cards in the gate areas of the 73 airports we serve for Customers and Employees to sign, and we joined with A Million Thanks (a non-profit organization) to deliver the messages at no cost to the troops. The A Million Thanks Campaign began in 2009 with a lofty goal of one million messages of appreciation to be delivered to our troops; that original goal was met within six months. To date the campaign has sent 5.2 million messages from a grateful nation, and that number doesn’t include the more than 6,000 being sent from Southwest. These messages are a simple “Thank you”’ and a “We are thinking of you”’ from the millions of Americans whose freedoms these soldiers are ensuring and protecting. We hope this touch of home conveys just how grateful we are, especially during this time of year. Below are a few messages from soldiers who have received postcards from A Million Thanks: "You have definitely hit it on the head; support from home makes a big difference to us and is an enormous morale booster." "Thank you for your kindness and support. I really appreciate all of the words and prayers that I receive.” "Thank you very much for your continued support of the Soldiers and Airmen in Qalat, Afghanistan. We truly appreciate all that you do for us, to include the pictures, drawings, and letters of support." "Your support and patriotism has helped strengthen the resolve of our Marines. It's people like you that keep the Marines motivated and proud to serve our country." Because we get it, and we understand how important it is to be together, especially over the holidays, we offer our thanks to our Customers and Employees for providing a little bit of home for those that are so far away. From our grateful hearts to your warm hearts, we wish you a Merry Christmas and to all—including our U.S. Troops—a good night. To read more about how these cards touch our troops, visit http://www.amillionthanks.org/.
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Today is the 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and my father is a veteran of World War II. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, my Dad was 18 years old; two years later he enlisted in the Navy. Many young men and women of that age are referred to as the “greatest generation,” and I’m proud of the four World War II Veterans from my family who served in the Army, Navy, and Air Force, and proud of my husband who later served in Germany during the Vietnam War. This past November on Veterans Day, my father and my husband got to do something very special and memorable. My husband, John, accompanied my dad, Frank, as his Guardian on an Honor Flight to Washington, D.C., to see the war memorials. These trips are deeply meaningful experiences for both the Veteran and Guardian, who accompanies the Veteran to assist him or her throughout the trip. Honor Flights provide both the Veteran and grateful citizens the opportunity to express deep gratitude for their service. In 2009, Southwest became the official commercial carrier of The Honor Flight Network with the privilege of providing approximately 70,000 World War II Veterans the opportunity to visit the memorials in our nation’s capital. Below is my husband’s account of serving as dad’s Guardian on his Honor Flight on Veterans Day, November 11, 2011: First of all, my deepest appreciation should be stated for Southwest Airlines and their commitment to the Honor Flight program. Frank was truly speechless when he learned that I would accompany him at no cost to him on his Honor Flight and that Southwest had played a vital role in those plans. He was so excited the days before the flight, asking me lots of questions about what to pack and the itinerary. It was a relief to receive the letter from Honor Flight with all arrangements. Off we flew on Friday, November 10 from Dallas Love Field on our favorite airline to BWI. We were like two kids on this trip, both of us awed by the respect and recognition we received along the way. We were treated like celebrities by Southwest Employees, fellow travelers, and other groups of memorial visitors, including school children who broke into spontaneous applause and wanted to shake our hands and take photos with us, offer salutes, and give us hand-drawn thank you letters for our group. My own father was a World War II Veteran, who regrettably passed away without the privilege of taking an Honor Flight. I’ve since heard that more than 1,000 World War II Veterans pass away each day. Soon, there will not be anyone left to share their experiences. I recall that my father was very reluctant to talk about his war experiences and rarely spoke of his service . When I pressed, he would simply say, “I served my country along with many others during my youth.” Going on this Honor Flight with Frank brought to mind my dad and the missed opportunity to do this with him—and made me even more grateful for the privilege to share the trip with Frank and serve as his Guardian. My father-in-law’s war experience began in 1943, as he enlisted in the Navy and served on the U.S. Holland, a naval supply ship that crisscrossed the Pacific throughout World War II. Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Frank’s ship was called to port in Pearl Harbor. Today, December 7, marks the 70th anniversary of that attack, which was the first upon U.S. soil and ultimately brought the United States into World War II. Frank told me that he “felt a terrifying kinship and sense of loss for the entombed Seamen who died onboard those sunken ships at port; their bodies could not be raised and returned to their loved ones until after the war ended.” (Actually, there are still some remains that were never recovered from the sunken wreckage of the USS Arizona.) Speaking for myself, Frank, and the 17 other Veterans and their Guardians, including a Purple Heart recipient and several Veterans’ grandchildren, we were honored to share this trip with members of the greatest generation this past Veterans Day and deeply moved with the experience of visiting the majestic World War II, Vietnam, Air Force, Iwo Jima, Korean, and Women’s Memorials. Our experience was unique for each of us, but I know we each came away from the experience changed and more committed than ever to share our gratitude with all our Veterans, the gate keepers of our freedom.
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