Operation Get Walter Home: Completing the Mission
Operation Get Walter Home: Completing the Mission
At Southwest Airlines, we take pride in caring not only for our Employees who have served in the military but our Customers and their families as well. We connect People to what is most important in their lives, during joyful times and times of grief, through our Customer Service, and Hospitality. Our Customers count on us to take care of their needs.
There are so many great stories and memories throughout the Company honoring our service members. One story that comes to mind is the special journey of a fallen hero’s beloved pet cat, Walter.
Suzi’s Note of Thanks and Gratitude
Earlier this year, Southwest Customer Suzi Way reached out to express her and her husband, Dana Way’s, gratitude for our Employees and to share the plans of her upcoming trip:
“I want to thank you and every Southwest Airlines Employee. Especially those that brought my Navy son, Hospital Corpsman Third Class (HM3) Jordan W. Way’s body back home to us in January of 2018 from San Diego to Baltimore. I thank you, for the professionalism and care shown to my son’s casket and the honor and respect to his service for our country—from the Pilots to the Flight Crew and the workers on the ground—who ensured my son’s body was treated with absolute care and dignity. I thank you!
I wanted to let you know that Jordan’s cat, Walter, will be making his way home on a Southwest flight from San Diego to Baltimore in the next couple of weeks. When my son was killed, his shipmates could not bear to part with Walter. It’s funny how these service members have pets to help normalize their worlds. Anyhow, it’s time for Walter to make the trip as my son made and I will be flying out to get him and then turning around to bring him home...I only write this, because I feel like Southwest was with us from the beginning and now you all will help finish the mission of getting Walter home…we call it Operation Get Walter Home.
Thank you for everything…truly! The grief of losing a child is unbearable…Southwest helped me know my son was taken care of and brought home with respect, honor, and care. My family will forever fly exclusively Southwest Airlines!!”
Operation Get Walter Home Takes Flight
Walter, the beloved cat, honorably completed his tour with HM3 Jordan W. Way’s shipmates and made his final journey home to Baltimore. With the support of our Military Ambassadors, a Team of veterans and military spouses serving as liaisons, and the San Diego and Baltimore Stations, Suzi was met with open arms when she landed, much like the homecoming she witnessed with her son in 2018.
When our Customer Relations Department received Suzi’s letter, they sprang into action to find a way to honor Suzi, Walter, and the entire Way family on Walter’s journey home. Our Employees rolled out the red carpet to ensure Suzi knew how much we cared about the importance of this journey to her and her family. So much so, that Walter was honorably promoted to HM3 Walter Way and given an engraved nametag, making the tour officially complete upon their arrival to Baltimore. During this season of thanks, we’re grateful to our Employees who take great pride and are overjoyed when we are able to honor our Customers.
Drew Jennings, SAN Maintenance Manager, shared that he appreciated HM3 Way’s motto shown on his challenge coin, “What we do in life…. echo[es] in eternity.” Drew said, “Meeting Suzi and Walter was a great experience and I’m glad our station could be part of it.”
Gabriel Rios, BWI Sr. Recruiter, exclaimed, “‘Mission complete.’ We are happy to say that Suzi and Walter arrived safely to Baltimore and were welcomed with a big celebration of LUV. Prior to their arrival, we were able to coordinate with the Ground Operations Team and have a few Ramp Agents hold the American and Naval flags. As she arrived off the jet bridge, Suzi was welcomed with a display of military flags and emblems showing our support for her and Walter.”
Reecie Howard, Baltimore-based Flight Attendant, presented Suzi with a flag that was flown from Marine Corps Base Quantico, Naval Medical Clinic on behalf of her son. “To complete Walter’s tour we let her know we were honorably promoting Walter to HM3 and presented her a cat collar with an emblem of the rank and Walter’s name on the collar along with a ‘kitty’ backpack.”
Giving Thanks to our Customers and Employees
This homecoming would not have happened without help from our Baltimore and San Diego Stations in addition to our Ground Operations, Inflight, and Customer Relations Departments. It was a huge Team effort to welcome Suzi and Walter home.
Each day, we know that every Customer that travels with us has their own special story. We are grateful that Suzi and her husband, Dana, felt compelled to share theirs with us. In this season of thanksgiving, we are thankful for our Employees, our Customers, and those who have and continue to serve our country.
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