Authored by Rob Paulukaitis
As we pause this Memorial Day to remember our fallen veterans, it is especially important to honor those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for our great nation. Several years ago, Southwest Airlines joined this effort by offering transportation for our fallen heroes to their final resting place. Last year, as part of this endeavor, Southwest transported 308 fallen Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, and Airmen home to rest in peace with their loved ones. This is a very large and concerted effort coordinated between our Cargo Department, the NOC, Ground Operations, Inflight Operations, and Flight Operations on 539 individual flights just in 2021 alone.
While every Military Human Remains flight is treated with equal importance and respect, some are very unique. A few years back, the United States Government began an exhaustive effort to identify the remains of service members killed in past conflicts. Using modern technology, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) Laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Nebraska began the tedious process of identifying hundreds of previously unknown remains believed to be our military missing in action and presumed deceased. It has been our honor to transport many of these heroes in a dignified manner from our Omaha Station to other stations across the country so these fallen can finally be laid to rest. Some of the fallen Southwest has transported include sailors who were onboard the USS Oklahoma during the attack on Pearl Harbor, Soldiers and Marines from the battlefields of Germany, Airmen who lost their lives over Italy, one Medal of Honor recipient, and the father of one of our very own Captains who paid the ultimate price flying during the Vietnam war.
This is an example of a hero that Southwest was honored to play a very small part in the process of finally getting home:
Henry D. Mitchell:
In 1944, Henry D. Mitchell, of Elm Springs, Arkansas—just 23 years old—was shot down over Austria.
According to a news release from the DPAA, “In July 1944, Mitchell was assigned to the 48th Fighter Squadron, 14th Fighter Group, 15th Air Force in the European Theater. On July 8, he was piloting a P-38 Lightning fighter on a mission outside of Vienna, Austria. As his squadron was returning from the target, they encountered enemy aircraft. After combat, Mitchell responded he was OK about 10-15 kilometers northeast of Vienna, but was never heard from or seen again. Neither the Red Cross nor German forces reported him as a prisoner of war. With no evidence that Mitchell had survived his disappearance, the War Department issued an administrative Finding of Death on July 9, 1945.”
It was 77 years later when his brother, Bob Mitchell, learned that his brother’s remains were located.
After many years of wondering for the Mitchell family, Henry D. Mitchell’s remains were recovered on a private property in Austria. According to a news release from U.S. Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark, the former owner of the property wouldn’t allow searchers to excavate, but the owner’s son eventually gave them permission. The DPAA thanked the owner’s son for his assistance in the mission.
After all this time, Henry D. Mitchell’s remains have been returned home to his home state of Arkansas and laid to rest in Fayetteville National Cemetery.
Southwest Airlines is honored to play a small role in providing closure to the families who have lost their loved ones and we are grateful to the DPAA for their incredible efforts to recover these fallen service members. Most of all, we are eternally grateful to the soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our nation. This Memorial Day, we hope you will each join us in honoring these great men and women.
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Eighty years ago today, America was ushered into World War II when it was attacked in the early morning hours at Pearl Harbor. By the time the dust settled, more than 2,400 Americans lost their lives and more than 1,000 others were wounded. Dec. 7, 1941, will be the day that “lives in infamy” and today we come together to remember and honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice on that December day.
Of the 2,400 who died, 429 were onboard the USS Oklahoma. The attack on the Navy base took place so fast that the Oklahoma quickly sunk, taking nearly everyone on board with it. Shortly after the attack, work began to identify the Sailors and Marines who were on board. Between 1941 and 1944, only 35 men were identified and the nearly 400 unidentified remains were buried as Unknowns at the National Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.
For decades, the families of the unidentified Marines and Sailors were left with a void. Generations grew up only knowing their family members died at Pearl Harbor. They would never get the opportunity to say their final goodbyes or offer one final salute. That was until 2015.
The Department of Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) exhumed the unknown remains and transferred them to a lab at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Nebraska. Scientists and anthropologists used every available tool to identify the remains of the 394 unknown Sailors and Marines. Since the project began, the DPAA has successfully identified 92% of those who were unidentified.
Once a Sailor or Marine is identified, the Military works with the family and airline partners, like Southwest Airlines, to bring their loved one home for their funeral with full military honors. At Southwest, once we get the call that a family will be reunited with their loved one, we get right to work. Our Teams coordinate with a variety of departments spanning the Company to ensure everyone is in lockstep and moving the remains with the dignitary and honor they deserve.
We recently had the opportunity to visit with the niece of a Sailor who was onboard the USS Oklahoma after learning her uncle had been identified. Make sure to watch the video below to see how Southwest assists with bringing closure to families of loved ones who were on board the Oklahoma.
Video by Patric Alva.
On the anniversary of the attacks, the DPAA is ending its USS Oklahoma project. In total, they’ve identified 361 of the 394 Sailors and all unaccounted-for-Marines. 33 Sailors remain unidentified. Their remains are being reinterred at the National Cemetery of the Pacific today.
To learn more about the DPAA, please visit DPAA.mil.
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This blog was written by Monica Del Rio.
Things are on the move in New Orleans this week as we get ready to begin operating out of a brand new airport. This week, the City of New Orleans officially opens the new facilities at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport on the north side of the airport. The project has been years in the making and will greatly improve the experience for all travelers and airport Employees.
Effective Nov. 6, 2019, all flights will depart and arrive at the new terminal located at 1 Terminal Drive, Kenner, LA, and the existing facility at 900 Airline Dr., Kenner, LA, will close to the public. We encourage all travelers to check out www.flymsy.com for the latest information on terminal directions and parking information.
Have some time at the airport? Be sure to check out some of the new terminal amenities:
Fast, free Wi-Fi
Chargers available at 50 percent of the seats in the gate areas
Water bottle refilling stations post-security
Three Nursing Rooms
Fully-automated restrooms with sanitary seat covers
A pet relief area post-security
Music venues located pre and post-security
An in-line baggage screening system
Three curbside check-in locations with easy access to the Short Term Garage
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The next time you fly through MKE, you might talk to one of Southwest’s all-star Employees, Becky Atchison, David Busch, Andy Konolock, or Antonio Nolden, who recently traded in their badges to become a professional baseball player for a day—courtesy of our Partners at the Milwaukee Brewers.
But, for MKE Ramp Agent David Busch, this month’s Trading Places event meant a little more. He was about to cash in on a years-long bet.
The Brewers invited several of our MKE Station’s top performing Employees out to Miller Park for an exclusive experience. At the stadium, they signed their waivers, tried on their new personalized jerseys, and headed straight out to the field. The fresh cut grass, perfectly manicured warning tracks, and the bright sun beaming down on the lush field made for an experience straight out of “Field of Dreams.”
The highlight of the day was the climb to the Bernie’s Clubhouse—the top of the stadium where you can find mascot Bernie Brewer during the game. From here, he entertains the crowd until a homerun sends him to the stands and down the famous “Bernie Brewer Slide” left-center field.
Let’s pause there before I tell you more about what happened next.
Nearly twenty years ago, when the Brewers’ old home, County Stadium, was set to close in 2000, David Busch leaned over to his buddy and made a bet they both thought they’d never be able to win: whoever was the first to slide down Bernie Brewers’ slide had to buy the other a steak dinner. Busch says they were drafting lofty plans to find a way into the old stadium to ride the slide. Although the plans never went anywhere, he never forgot about the bet. When MKE Station Leader Doug Rutledge reached out to him with an invitation, he knew it was an offer he couldn’t pass up.
Busch and the rest of the Southwest All-Stars climbed the steep staircase to the top of Miller Park, which provides an expansive view of the stadium and the surrounding area. At the top, Busch came face-to-face with Bernie Brewer’s slide, and with a quick push, he was off. Seconds later, he hit the landing zone a winner—smiling ear to ear.
“Now I can check this off my bucket list and collect dinner from my buddy!” Busch said.
A very special thank you to our Friends at the Brewers for making experiences like this possible.
MKE Ramp Agent David Busch at Miller Park courtesy of our Partners at the Milwaukee Brewers.
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If you’ve ever stayed at the Sheraton in Albuquerque, New Mexico, it’s likely you’ve come across Mr. Earl Richards: a 92-year-old Southwest super fan and the ultimate brand ambassador.
As a WWII Navy Pilot, aviation is one of Mr. Richards’ many passions, but it is specifically the love he feels from our Southwest Cohearts that keeps Mr. Richards flying. Every Thursday, he goes to the Albuquerque Sheraton to meet and thank our Crew Members staying there. When he travels, he has a special song he sings onboard about spreading love and happiness.
Earlier this month, we brought Mr. Richards to outhwest 's Dallas Headquarters to express our appreciation with a VIP experience. Upon his departure in Albuquerque, the Station threw him a send-off party to commemorate his journey.
Mr. Richards is welcomed to the Southwest Airlines Flight Operations Training Center After arriving in Dallas, Mr. Richards was taken to our Flight Operations building, where he was greeted with a standing ovation from our Employees at a welcome reception. He was even able to get back in the flight deck and fly in the simulator with another Southwest Pilot. This was especially significant for Mr. Richards, who first learned to fly during his military training at Love Field 73 years ago.
Other highlights of his day included a visit to the TOPS building, a tour of the NOC, and meeting with other Southwest Employees. Although Mr. Richards was a little tired at the end of his whirlwind day, he had a blast and never stopped smiling and singing along the way!
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There were a few new faces on the Southwest Teams at Baltimore and Denver International Airports this week as we hosted Trading Places events with a few players from the Baltimore Ravens and the Denver Nuggets.
The Ravens football players, cheerleaders, and the mascot (Poe) spent some time at BWI interacting with Customers and Employees and making it a fun atmosphere for everyone. In Baltimore, it was standing room only as the crowd gathered in the gate area to watch Ravens Cornerback Jerraud Powers and Guard John Urschel learn how to be Ops Agents for a day. They handled their new plays, like making boarding announcements and taking boarding passes, like true pros, even catching on so quickly that they had time to stop and take selfies with Customers as they boarded their flight to Las Vegas.
In Denver, it was a full court press as the Denver Nuggets basketball players traded places with our MVP Employees. Point Guard Emmanuel Mudiay and Small Forward Danilo Gallinari braved the snow to help load bags into the aircraft and get a flight to Newark pushed back. They also made boarding announcements, took boarding passes, and brought in Rocky the Mascot and Nuggets dancers to celebrate with our Customers in the gate area.
At Southwest Airlines, we know that operating our airline is the ultimate team sport—we all work together to provide friendly and reliable Customer Service—and we were proud to bring in a few new team members this week to let them try their hand at working the operation.
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We’re doing something amazing at our home in Dallas, Texas! Today, we officially begin flying to 50 destinations with new nonstop flights, bringing our Love Field operation up to 180 daily departures!
This means you can now reach virtually every part of the country with a nonstop flight. Cities across the country are celebrating today’s new flight with everything from bands, cakes, trivia and more!
“With these flights, we’re bringing more seats, more low fares, and time-saving itineraries our Customers want without nickel and diming them,” said Bob Jordan, Southwest Airlines’ Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer. “Southwest is offering something no other airline can offer from Dallas Love Field: an unmatched number of cities available on a nonstop basis.”
The new flights now bring nonstop service options between Dallas Love Field and Boston (Logan); Detroit; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh; Charlotte; Charleston, S.C.; Raleigh-Durham; Omaha; and Salt Lake City.
In October 2014, most federal flight restrictions at Dallas Love Field lifted, allowing Southwest the opportunity to expand nonstop service at its hometown airport and bring new low-fare competition between the Dallas metro area and major destinations across the country. Before the restrictions were repealed, Southwest served 16 destinations with nonstop service.
To book your next flight to any of these new nine nonstop destinations or anywhere else Southwest flies, visit Southwest.com.
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It was a special day for Kansas City barber Joey Thomas when he received a big surprise from the city’s Mayor. Thomas, a father of two – including a newborn, is deeply invested in helping his community become a better place.
One of the initiatives he is very involved in happens to be one that Southwest Airlines supports. It’s a reading-focused organization called “Turn the Page KC.” The group works to improve Kansas City’s future by increasing 3 rd grade reading proficiency and encourages the community to donate books and help young kids learn to read at home and school.
Turn the Page recently organized a campaign called #DadsTurnthePage which was aimed at encouraging fathers to read to their children. Turn the Page Executive Director Mike English says reading to your children helps form lifelong bonds and creates special memories that father and child can enjoy for the rest of their lives. One of those fathers who went above and beyond was Joey Thomas. He was even featured in a video on the organization’s website. To celebrate with him and show appreciation for how much he is helping his community, Mayor Sly James (also Turn the Page KC’s Board Chairman), and Southwest Airlines presented Thomas with two roundtrip tickets for a much needed vacation.
“My wife and I have been talking about taking a vacation for a long time,” Thomas said. “This is just a blessing.”
In addition to being a father, husband, barber, and business owner, Thomas finds time to give back. He organizes back to school drives for kids in August, provides free hairs cuts and school supplies, collects and donates turkeys during the holidays, and even challenges his friends to donate to local organizations.
To learn more about Turn the Page KC and how you can help, visit their website HERE.
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You might notice something different the next time you touch down in Wichita, Kansas. OK, let’s be honest, you’ll notice it right away. This morning, officials at Wichita D. Eisenhower National Airport unlocked the doors to its brand new terminal.
All you have to do to experience the new amenities is step right off the airplane and into the jet bridge- one of 12 all-glass jet bridges. This is the largest installations in the United States of these slick-looking jet bridges. These are very similar to what you’ll see in only a handful of Southwest cities – like AMA. As you move into our gate space, you’ll see lots of windows which are designed to increase natural light, brand new seating equipped with power stations, terrazzo flooring, and brand new concessions.
Wichita is commonly referred to as the “Air Capital of the World.” When you leave the secure side of the terminal, you’ll step right into an aviation museum with information about Wichita’s rich aviation history. Don’t forget to look in all directions to take in the big, open space. Look up to see more pieces of art and the ceiling which is designed to mimic the look of an airplane interior.
When it’s time to head out to the town, walk across the walkway and right into a new parking garage and rental car facility. For AvGeeks, there are plenty of places to do some spotting including at the top of the parking garage.
Don’t forget to say hello to our great Wichita Team when you’re flying through their new home. They are just as excited as the city for the new space and welcoming everyone to their state-of-the-art facility.
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This Valentine’s Day, Southwest Airlines is helping spreading even more LUV than ever before. Throughout the system, Southwest Teams are helping hand deliver hundreds of thousands of pounds of fresh flowers just in time for Valentine’s Day. But what you might not know is all the hard work and logistics that goes into making sure you have the brightest and freshest flowers in your hands by February 14.
Recently, USAToday.com took an in-depth look at the carefully orchestrated ballet that it takes to get your fresh roses from the farm to your hands. Here’s the link to the online story that showcases two Southwest Cargo Customers and many of our People in San Diego and San Antonio
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Southwest Airlines is celebrating the 31 st Annual Chicago Blues Festival by bringing rhythm and blues to Chicago Midway Airport! On Tuesday, June 10, Chicago Midway transformed into the Southwest Airlines Blues Lounge to kick off the Blues Festival. Hometown favorite, The Matthew Skoller band, took to the stage bringing the blues to Customers traveling to and from the Windy City.
Southwest’s purpose is to connect people to what’s important in their lives and this is one way we’re doing that. We know you LUV Southwest Airlines, but we also know you LUV the blues and that’s why we are the official airline of the Chicago Blues Festival. The free festival kicks off today in Grant Park, where you’ll be able to hear some of the nation’s top artists throughout the three-day festival. While there, make sure to stop by the Southwest Airlines Blues Lounge to relax and recharge while taking in the tunes. Throughout the weekend, you’ll get the chance to talk to some of your favorite artists and even register to win a special getaway package for two to Memphis, a Southwest destination rich in the blues heritage!
This is one of the special partnerships between the City of Chicago and Southwest Airlines. We are also proud partners of the city’s Taste of Chicago, Bike Week, and Downtown Sounds.
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