At Southwest Airlines we have a huge Heart for our military. Our support of our military comes from deep within our Heart, with 7,400 veterans and 1,500 military spouses, and thousands of Customers who have served or are actively serving. Last month, Southwest unveiled Freedom One, an aircraft that serves as a tribute to our nation, our military, and our more than 56,000 People at Southwest. In honor of July 4th and Independence Day we asked Flight Attendant Jose Cruz, a military veteran, to share a little bit about what Freedom One means to him and his experience seeing it for the first time.
The following was written by Flight Attendant Jose Cruz
Today, Independence Day, is a reminder that many have sacrificed for our freedoms and our ability to freely live the lives that we choose. The freedom to go, see, and do what you want. While I love the cookouts and fireworks that accompany July 4th, the part I truly enjoy is seeing all the American flags flying. Seeing the American flag reminds me of my first overseas port visit in Constanta, Romania, as a young sailor. I was excited to venture out and explore a new place and culture. Overall, it was a good trip and I learned quite a bit, but I was surprised by the unexpected feelings of missing home. As I returned to the USS San Jacinto, all I could see was the U.S. flag flying and I was comforted knowing that, for me, that flag represented home. No matter where I see the flag flying, I’m reminded of my son, my daughter, and now my son-in-law (currently deployed) wearing the uniform and defending our freedoms. Independence Day is a celebration of our country, our freedoms, and celebrating those who defend both.
I had the unique opportunity to be a part of the Freedom One unveiling in June and what an experience! I remember as a child the excitement I had on Christmas morning in anticipation of my gifts, but even better was the excitement and awe of what I actually had received. There’s was always a gift that I was not expecting or didn’t ask for. As I walked into the Houston Hangar for Southwest Airlines’ 2021 Employee Rally, I was curious and anticipated a good time, but like Christmas morning, the surprise took my breath away.
The Inaugural Crew for Freedom One was given a sneak peek of the new aircraft and we were blown away. I was awestruck by this amazing aircraft before me and I was speechless (not an easy task, if you know me). It dawned on me that Freedom One was a dedication to a country I love, from a Company I have longed admired even before I was an Employee, recognizing my brothers and sisters in the military. Freedom One is Southwest showing its veterans Big LUV for their service, sacrifice, and commitment. The day only got better as Freedom One was unveiled and presented with the Military Ambassadors in attendance and its flight to Dallas was operated by a Crew with a military background. It was great to watch their reaction and celebrate with them. Our Crew of seven proudly walked up to the aircraft humbled for the opportunity and honored to be the first crew to operate Freedom One. It’s a day and experience we will not forget!
Anyone who has ever served in our armed forces knows what it is like to volunteer, which starts on day one of joining the military. Volunteering for veterans doesn’t stop when we leave active duty, we just volunteer where we are. Whether it’s at a school, local agencies, or in my case, as a Southwest Airlines Military Ambassador. We, veterans, answer the call to help and hopefully make a difference. The Military Ambassador program is unique to Southwest. The program’s purpose is to recruit, assist, and retain veterans. These Military Ambassadors once again volunteer to make a difference for their fellow veterans and for Southwest. I consider it an honor and huge responsibility to be of assistance to veterans and Southwest.