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
Special challenge coin honoring HM3 Jordan Way 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!!”
Jordan’s beloved cat, Walter 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.
Suzi Way pictured with Baltimore Station Employees
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Southwest Airlines is proud to support all of our phenomenal women and celebrate the value they bring to our Company. Southwest’s mission is to be the most loved, most efficient, and most profitable airline in the world, which would not be possible without the contributions of our female Employees. From piloting our aircraft, assisting our Customers, maintaining our aircraft, and filling senior leadership positions, our Southwest women play an integral role in helping us reach our goals!
In honor of International Women’s Day, we asked some of our People what advice they have for women in the workplace and how Southwest has helped them unleash their full potential.
You’ll notice women fill roles in every corner of our Company - everyone can find a place in our Southwest Family, and we love to do our part to empower women to succeed where they are. We are proud to celebrate all women and their accomplishments on International Women’s Day and beyond!
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At Southwest, we take pride in recognizing and sharing the contributions influential African Americans have made to our nation and the world. We are also honored to share how our Employees contribute to continuing the legacy and how they celebrate Black History Month with their families and at work.
In honor of Black History Month, we asked Sean Moody, Cargo Customer Service Manager at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, about what Black History Month means to him, how he contributes to the celebration through his work at Southwest, and more.
As Sean mentioned, Black History Month is a time to reflect, educate, and celebrate the contributions of African Americans. We hope you will join us in keeping the conversation going.
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The following blog post was written by Southwest LUV Classic and Drive & Play sponsors, David and Diane Gutierrez Luther from Padrino Foods.
Our Journey began on June 17, 1994.
Natalie diagnosed with Acute Myelocytic Leukemia (AML) at 7 monthsNatalie diagnosed with Acute Myelocytic Leukemia (AML) at 7 monthsAs parents, your child’s best interest is always top-of-mind, especially when you are faced with the unknown. On June 17, 1994, our family doctor rushed us to Children's Hospital in Dallas with our then, seven-month-old daughter, Natalie. Our visits were quite frequent but this particular time Natalie’s health took a turn. Natalie was diagnosed with Acute Myelocytic Leukemia and given a three percent chance of survival. Diane and I were unsure what the next step would be but we were informed that the type of Leukemia Natalie had required a specialized transplant called a “half match” or better known as a bone marrow transplant with a perfect match donor.
Natalie in a hospital roomNatalie in a hospital roomAfter receiving the news, we learned that a procedure like this needed to be performed at a specialized hospital in South Carolina. As a result, we uprooted and relocated our entire family to South Carolina where we stayed at a Ronald McDonald (RMD) House from October 30, 1994, to January 17, 1995. It was very hard for our family, especially with having no health insurance at the time, and on our other children, Nicole and DJ, who also had to pick up and relocate with us in support of Natalie’s treatment.
A blessing of hope, love, and support from the Ronald McDonald House.
The Ronald McDonald House in South CarolinaThe Ronald McDonald House in South CarolinaWhen we arrived at the Ronald McDonald House in South Carolina, we were treated like family each and every day we were there. While Diane and I were focusing on Natalie and trying to cope during her rigorous chemo treatments, the Ronald McDonald House staff were very compassionate towards our children. They were engaged with them and even allowed them to participate in fun activities. This display of compassion towards Nicole and DJ allowed Diane and me time to take care of Natalie—it left a lasting impression on both of us.
Seven-year-old NatalieSeven-year-old NatalieIn addition to the outreach of support from various sponsors, friends, and family, it was our experience at the Ronald McDonald House that made all the difference. This was a trying time for our family and having support, and even a warm meal at the end of the day was greatly appreciated. Ronald McDonald House is not just about children with serious illnesses, it’s about families in need who have nowhere to go or stay while their child receives treatment. It’s not just a place to stay, its support—they literally do everything in their power to support you and your family. In the end, they become a part of your family.
25 years old and better than ever.
Natalie at 25Natalie at 25Natalie is now 25 years old. We are so blessed to report that she received a clean bill of health two years after her treatment in 1994. She is stronger than ever and we are so proud of her.
What goes around comes around.
Over the last decade, Diane and I, on behalf of our company Padrino Foods, have donated to veteran associations, various hospitals, and other local community programs. However, the Ronald McDonald House had always been near and dear to our hearts. It’s been our desired to continue staying involved.
Two years ago, we learned about the Southwest LUV Classic & Party and were thrilled to hear that Ronald McDonald House Charities is often a recipient of the funds raised from the golf tournament. We jumped at the opportunity to sponsor and participate in the LUV Classic. This year we plan to participate again to showcase our support and gratitude for the organizations that have made an impact on our family.
Meet us at the LUV Classic & Party on Friday, October 11 to learn more about how the Ronald McDonald House has made a lasting impact on our lives.
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At Southwest, we strive to give back to the communities we serve by demonstrating our Servant’s Heart every day, both at work and at home. However, there are times when a small gesture can impact our community in a bigger way than expected. The expression “one person’s trash is another person’s treasure,” took on a whole new meaning this past summer when our Network Engineering Team in our Technology Department visited Oak Hill Academy in Dallas, Texas to replace their network infrastructure.
Expanding Oak Hill Academy’s Network
Oak Hill Academy is dedicated to providing a customized academic curriculum that includes academic learning experiences, organizational skills, character building, social-emotional health, and social skills learning. The curriculum at Oak Hill Academy gives students the space to understand, accept, and overcome their individual challenges so they can thrive in school, and in life.
Most recently Lauren Woods, Managing Director Technology at Southwest and parent of an Oak Hill Academy student, was consulted to help select a vendor to complete an overhaul on the network infrastructure. At the time, the school had many issues with technology outages which prevented faculty and students from accessing or streaming content for their coursework on a daily basis. Since Oak Hill Academy operates as a nonprofit school, they would often elect to fix things as they go due to a lack of funding. The limited infrastructure became a reality when everyone in the school would attempt to access data or stream at the same time, causing the entire schools system to fail. This made it fairly difficult for teachers to control what students were accessing.
Repurposing Equipment for a Good Cause
Lauren jumped right in and enlisted the help of Kevin Tucker, Director of Technology at Southwest, to help her decipher the best avenue to advise the school. Kevin then realized that Southwest had the equipment the school needed leftover from a completed project. Instead of holding onto the equipment despite not having a use for it, the equipment could be repurposed and given a new life – a win-win for both Southwest and Oak Hill Academy.
Throughout the next several days, the Network Engineering Team volunteered on their own time. The Team successfully replaced and upgraded Oak Hill Academy’s local network and wireless infrastructure with the latest technology and cloud management. The group also worked with Southwest’s cable vendor who supports our stations, TEAAM, to donate their time and materials to the project as well. The ultimate result of this upgrade and collaborative effort allows items such as desktop computers, wireless printing, and streaming to be all on one network without failing.
“We couldn’t afford the equipment, but the safety and education was truly needed by our school. It’s amazing. A godsend to have the support from Southwest,” shared Brit Smart, Executive Director of Oak Hill Academy. “We are a specialized school that serves children with special needs and language disorders—technology is critical in helping them grow and develop.”
A Gesture of Appreciation
Back in May, the upgrade was completed and the Oak Hill Academy staff hosted the volunteers for a pizza party as thank you from their school.
With a small gesture and roughly 70 volunteer hours, Oak Hill Academy can now reallocate funds that they would have spent on another project to benefit the students. This was a true testament of Teamwork. Not only did Southwest provide the infrastructure through excess from the warehouse, but our Partners also stepped up with labor and facilities materials. Without our partnerships, Employees, and Friends at Oak Hill Academy none of this could have been accomplished!
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Southwest Airlines loves to hear how our community support in the cities we serve can lead to exponential growth for our community Partners. Each and every partnership has a special place in our Heart for many different reasons, starting right here at home in the Lonestar State. The Montrose Center, a Houston, Texas-based organization and community Partner of Southwest, was established in 1978 as a safe and affirming place for lesbian and gay Houstonians to receive counseling. Now over 40 years later, the Montrose Center has emerged as one of the nation’s leading full-service LGBTQ centers providing counseling and has been the fifth largest LGBTQ community center in the nation for more than a decade.
Although counseling remains a vital part of the services offered at the Center, the organization continues to expand to meet the changing needs of the diverse communities it serves. Our partnership with the Montrose Center works well because our values, missions, and visions are complementary. The Montrose Center and Southwest both know how important it is to lend a helping hand and how vital it is to always have a Servant’s Heart. Together, we envision a healthier society marked by positive changes in attitudes and behaviors, not only toward ourselves, but toward the LGBTQ communities we serve. With our friends at the Center, we continue to make this happen starting with supporting our LGBTQ youth through the Center’s Hatch Youth program.
Hatch Youth is dedicated to empowering LGBTQ adolescents to become responsible citizens and positive contributors to society by providing a safe, affirming social environment for LGBTQ youth. Hatch Youth provides role models and sponsors educational and community outreach opportunities focused on issues and problems affecting LGBTQ youth.
Southwest has a rich history of helping Customers and communities through community outreach support. We are committed to giving back in the places where our Customers and Employees live and work.
In 2015, Southwest donated travel to the Montrose Center that allowed staff to attend a conference and meet members of the Born This Way Foundation led by Lady Gaga and her mother, Cynthia Germanotta. At the conference, Montrose Center staff were able to network with the foundation, which ultimately led to the Montrose Center Hatch Youth Service center receiving a $75,000 grant from the Born This Way Foundation in 2017.
It’s important to align ourselves with community Partners who have the same Heart as Southwest. During LGBTQ Pride Month, we’re proud to reflect on the strides that we’ve made with our community partners to raise awareness of current issues facing the LGBTQ community. In celebration of LGBTQ Pride Month, share your thoughts and stories, and what Pride Month means to you!
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“For optimal success in your career, your work has to correlate with your purpose.”—Alfonzo Alexander, Chief Ethics & Diversity Officer, NASBA
In addition to his role as Chief Ethics and Diversity Officer at the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy, Alfonzo Alexander serves as president of the organization’s Center for the Public Trust. His dual role comes with a wide range of responsibilities, many of which involve travel. Alfonzo uses Southwest as his primary airline for both business and personal travel, citing the Company’s extensive routing options through Nashville and our reputation for ontime flights. He also loves Southwest’s priority boarding and open-seating policies, which help him select his favorite seat on every flight. While Alfonzo enjoys his time in the sky, he always looks forward to returning home to his wife and three daughters. We love having you onboard, Alfonzo!
—Ashley Omondi, Communications & Outreach
Comfort Zone “On the rare occasion I fly another airline, I never get that comfortable, homey feeling I experience on Southwest.”
Home Sweet Home “When you travel as much as I do, the goal is to spend as many nights at home as you can. Thanks to Southwest’s efficiency, I can often fly somewhere and get back home the same day.”
Family Flights “I use the majority of my Rapid Rewards points for family vacations and for extended family members to go on trips for school or work. My mother will also use my points to fly her sisters in to visit her.”
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