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I love family reunions. We've had them on my mom's side of my family for almost 70 years now–annual weekend pilgrimages to the home of the Nichols clan, the lovely (if hot) little Texas town of Glen Rose (population: 2,308). I feel incredibly lucky that I know the names and faces of third, fourth, even fifth cousins--and consider them friends, even though for the most part we see each other but once a year. All the cousins of "my generation" have bonded through a half-century of these annual meetings. We all remember being the children eating at the "kid's table," wishing we could eat with the adults like our older cousins and other family members. Then we grew into a rowdy band of teens marauding around the town square, trying to have fun--but not enough fun to cause any of the merchants to rat us out to our two family matriarchs, Aunt Mamie (a practitioner of folk medicine extraordinare) and Aunt Dolly Sue (my maternal grandmother–a truly formidable woman). From there, we matured into young adults nervously introducing each other to new fiances and spouses. Seemingly a half-hour later we were all new parents, making sure our babies didn't get hurt or that they didn't hurt the babies of the other new parents. Now we're watching each other become grandparents, talking about what blood pressure medications we're on, and taking silent glee in the observation of how much each of us now look like our parents. Leaving Glen Rose on Sunday afternoon when the reunion is over is always bittersweet. We are always stuffed full of the bounty of Texas in the summer, usually sunburned from playing without sunscreen in the Paluxy River, and frequently hung over (in later years) from the Saturday night beer-bust/weiner-roast up on Chalk Mountain. There is also the fleeting, faint sadness that you won't see most of those people until the same time, next year…and a foreboding shadow of certainty that you'll never again see some of those folks whose necks you've just hugged and who's pies you've just tasted–not in this life, anyway. Attending our reunion is a true homecoming of sorts. It tells you, once again, that there really are people out there that love you just for being you, unconditionally, and that you are part of a greater family unit than just Dad, Mom, siblings, and you. And because that feeling is precious, you try to hold on to it as tightly as you can for the next 363 days–until it's time for the Nichols Reunion again and we head south to Glen Rose one more time. Of course, as a Southwest Airlines Employee for more than 15 years, I get that same sort of feeling of connection and belonging when I attend the various Southwest functions that happen during the year, such as the quarterly meetings of our Culture Committee, the annual Boeing Burgers and Beer Birthday Bash, the Chili Cookoff, or our annual Spirit Parties. In fact, I think I give and receive even more hugs at these events than I do during my annual weekend in Glen Rose–but then again, there are far more of us in the family of Southwest Airlines Employees than there are in the Nichols clan. But the hugs at a Southwest event are just as heartfelt as the ones in Glen Rose, just as filled with smiles…and just as good for the soul. Wherever your travels take you this summer, I hope family and friends will feature prominently in your plans. And hopefully you can spend some time with my family–the almost 32,000 men and women of Southwest Airlines. But don't worry, we won't try to hug you. That is--unless you really need it.