The children of deployed servicemen and women sacrifice a lot when their parent (or, in some cases, both parents) leave home to serve our country. So when it came time to plan this year’s Companywide Share the Spirit event, we didn’t have a very hard decision to make once we learned about Operation Homefront.
Operation Homefront is an organization that works to provide emergency assistance and morale to our troops, to the families they leave behind, and to wounded warriors when they return home. The organization serves all branches of the armed forces, including active duty, Guard, and Reserve. One of their major needs this year was new school supplies for the children of the families they support; thus was born The Southwest Airlines Backpack Brigade!
The call went out to every SWA location in all 64 of our cities asking for donations of three-ring binders, markers, colored pencils, ballpoint pens, highlighters, pencils, pink erasers, pocket folders, kids’ scissors, pencil sharpeners, and pencil cases—and boy did our Employees come through! The donations came in by the truckload, and we were able to exceed our goal of filling 1,000 backpacks for some very deserving boys and girls!
Once all the supplies were collected and sorted at SWA Headquarters, several of our Culture Committee Members volunteered their time to stuff the pink and green camouflage book bags. Once they were ready to go, a military cargo truck joined us on campus to carry the packed bags off into the sunset-- but of course we couldn’t let them go without a special, Southwest-style celebration!
Representatives from the military and Operation Homefront joined Herb and Colleen** and Southwest Employees in one of our Maintenance Hangars to present backpacks full of school supplies to three very appreciative Operation Homefront Military Families. (**The Backpack Brigade project was in honor of Herb and Colleen and their inspirational leadership of Southwest and their unwavering support for education and the military.)
Hundreds of SWA Employees lined the fence along the runway at our Headquarters behind Dallas Love Field waving red, white, and blue pompoms as Herb and Colleen led the Military Truck (filled with 1,000 backpacks!) to our Dallas Cargo Facility for shipping. Within two days, Operation Homefront offices in Chicago, San Diego, Orlando, Phoenix, San Antonio, El Paso, Columbus, Nashville, and Portland received their backpacks and couldn’t wait to get them in to the hands of deserving families in their areas!
Since so many of our Southwest Employees have had family members in the military, and so many have served themselves, this particular project hit us very close to home. But, no matter what the cause, when a call to action is sent out to our SWA “troops”, there is never a doubt that expectations will be exceeded and all needs will be met. So, to all the Employees who donated supplies, wrote sweet notes to the schoolchildren, and came out to “back the Brigade”, the Share the Spirit committee sincerely thanks you.
And to all the kids out there who give us your moms and dads so that we have the Freedom to Move About the Country, the entire Southwest Airlines Family sends our LUV and thanks to you!