For those of us who live near family and friends, it’s easy to take for granted a hug from a loved one. Even when we have family in another state (like I do), it’s comforting to know that they are just a plane ride away, but our Military Heroes know just how meaningful a hug and a welcome home celebration can be. Recently, Southwest Airlines had the opportunity to once again partner with Operation Freedom Bird (OFB) and give 50 Veterans the honor and welcome home celebration they deserved!
The Veterans’ families and friends, previous recipients of the trip, and, of course, our very own Southwest Employees gathered in the Southwest Airlines Maintenance Hangar to give the Veterans an experience they’ll never forget. Operation Freedom Bird, a non-profit organization founded 25 years ago by Vietnam Veteran Patrick Lynch. Each year the program provides a healing journey to Washington D.C. to celebrate Veterans Day for the retired military heroes. The group consists primarily of Vietnam Veterans, but with the success of the organization, recent attendees now include a number of Veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq. Each year Operation Freedom Bird works with the Arizona Veterans Center who carefully selects the Veterans for the trip.
In order to make this amazing trip a reality, Operation Freedom Bird raises funds to cover ground transportation, food, and hotels for the trip, and air fare is sponsored by Southwest Airlines, so the Veterans themselves do not have to spend a dime. Southwest Airlines has been a proud sponsor for 14 years. This year, the group had the opportunity to visit the War Memorials including The Wall to honor their fallen comrades who made the ultimate sacrifice during the Vietnam War.
Our Veterans Day is made extra special because of the heroes from Operation Freedom Bird that we Welcome Home each year. Congratulations on your 25 th Anniversary.
For more information on Operation Freedom Bird, please visit http://www.operationfreedombird.org.
... View more
Think of the sounds at a paintball fight. Splash, plop, thud as the rainbow of paint colors hit the targets. This was afternoon fun at the "Health Happens Here: Male by Birth, Man by Choice" camp. Learning, sharing, and bonding is the work of the young men who attend the weekend camp held each year under the collaboration of Brotherhood Crusade, Why Can’t We Make a Difference Foundation and their collaborative partners. The group of 75 students is led by a team of 25 men who volunteer for this weekend to help change the lives of the youth who attend. From ethics to etiquette, mixed with hiking and lots of fun in the woods that surround the camp, the boys enjoy time away from their everyday, and sometimes difficult, lives. Southwest Airlines is a long-time supporter of Brotherhood Crusade. I visited the camp to see the great work the organization is doing in transforming the lives of our young males. The camp is unique because it combines everyday need-to-know skills with the power of male mentors who show the students they are there to support them in their life journey. During my visit, I spent time with a remarkable young man called Lazarrius. He had experienced troubles in his past but turned his life around through his desire to be a role model for his younger nephews and by learning to do the right thing. Lazarrius no doubt, is just one example of the work Brotherhood Crusade, Why Can’t We Make a Difference, and their partners are doing for the students. The organizations realize that adult role models are the key to guiding young and mainly fatherless male students on the road to success. I left before the paintball challenge began but as the plane took off on my travel home, I could almost hear the students at the camp squeal and yell as they struck each other with the paint guns. I also reminisced about their stories of the time they had spent there, complete with sightings of two small bears. As the plane reached altitude, I thought of the mentors who were the silent heroes of the day, simply doing what they felt was the right thing to do but making a huge impact in the lives of every student who attended the camp. Who knows, perhaps in a few years we will see some of the students return in the role of mentor showing the truly lasting effect of the "Health Happens Here: Male by Birth, Man by Choice" camp. For now, it does my heart good to know the students were relishing in a safe environment that shows the male mentors truly are making a difference.
For more information on Brotherhood Crusade visit www.brotherhoodcrusade.org For more information on Why Can’t We Make a Difference Foundation visit http://wcwmad.org To learn more about Health Happens Here visit http://hhh.calendow.org/
Southwest Airlines The California Endowment South Los Angeles Building Healthy Communities Why Can’t We Make a Difference Foundation Brotherhood Crusade California Community Foundation (BLOOM and Preparing Achievers for Tomorrow) Weingart YMCA L.A.’s Promise Peace Over Violence Para Los Ninos LAUSD District 7 LAPD Southeast Police Athletic League
... View more
This year Southwest Airlines has enjoyed many memorable moments celebrating our 40th Anniversary. It is hard to believe the little airline that started in Texas 40 years ago grew to the beloved airline it is today. This milestone has certainly been a great one to celebrate, and we have had fun imagining what it would look like in the future with time capsules and other activities. Can you envision doubling 40 and celebrating the 80th anniversary of Southwest? Many of us will be retired at that time, but hopefully, we will still be able to celebrate that mammoth milestone. Although most of us cannot think of celebrating an 80th anniversary, our folks at LAS were able to help a special couple celebrate this very milestone when they arrived in LAS in November. Our LAS Ground Operations Team welcomed the guests of honor, Edna and Harold who arrived to “live it up” in the great city. The couple has been visiting LAS since 1947 when the city looked much different, and the terminal was about the size of a three-car garage. The young-at-heart couple try to visit the city once a month, perhaps the secret to the longevity of their marriage. The LAS Culture Committee greeted the couple when their flight landed and rolled out the red carpet for Edna and Harold for this special occasion. The drive behind the surprise was Craig Ogren, a local Ops Agent, who has taken the couple under his wing, assisting them on their monthly visits. A Southwest model plane was presented to Edna and Harold engraved especially for them that reads, "Harold and Edna, 80 years of LUV, from your friends at Southwest Airlines." The couple was also given two roundtrip airline tickets for their next trip, which, no doubt, will be used for yet another trip to the city that helps to keep their LUV alive. Our friends at Palace Station Casino also treated the couple to a limousine ride on this extraordinary occasion. From everyone at Southwest Airlines, Happy 80th Wedding Anniversary, Edna and Harold!
... View more
The date was November 12. Imagine entering the PHX Maintenance Hangar and, instead of a plane, you were greeted by columns and bunches of balloons, chairs set up theater-style, and a stage positioned close to the bay hangar doors. Picture multiple flags, banners, and signs anxiously displayed for a group of special guests. Imagine the cheers, chants, and tears for the return of 50 Veterans, who are being honored in the only way we know how—with LUV! This was one way we acknowledged Veterans Day in Arizona. The 50 Veterans are part of a group called Operation Freedom Bird, a non-profit organization founded 24 years ago by Vietnam Veteran Patrick (Pat) Lynch. Each year the program provides a healing journey to Washington D.C. to celebrate Veterans Day for the retired military heroes. The group consists primarily of Vietnam Veterans, but with the success of the organization, the past two years have included a number of Veterans from the current wars. Operation Freedom Bird raises funds to cover ground transportation, food, and hotels for the trip, and air fare is sponsored by Southwest Airlines, so the Veterans themselves do not have to spend a dime. For 13 years Southwest has provided 50 roundtrip tickets for the Veterans. During the three-day journey, the group visited—among other places—The Wall to honor their fellow comrades who gave their lives during the Vietnam War. The group is carefully selected by the Arizona Veterans Center, which has partnered with the non-profit organization since its inception. In additon to the sponsorship of the trip, Southwest Airlines provides these military heroes a Welcome Home Celebration—something they never received when returning from Vietnam. Once they arrive back home in PHX, the group boards complimentary buses provided by Veolia Transportation, and they are then taken to the PHX Maintenance Hangar where bays are transformed with a patriotic red, white, and blue theme. In this specially-created place, the group is met by their families, friends, previous recipients of the trip, and, of course, our very own Employees. Saluting the presentation of the colors The program begins with the presentation of colors by Luke Air Force Base Honor Guard, and the Star Spangled Banner is played by renowned trumpet player, Jesse McQuire. Our very own Scott Wirt has sung patriotic songs to the crowd for the past several years, and this year, the special guest was Paige, a 13-year-old high school student. Paige was the winner of the PHX Suns/Southwest Airlines Art Contest. Through tears of compassion, she read her essay on what Freedom means to her to the returning Veterans and crowd. Paige received a standing ovation from everyone who had gathered, as well as her proud family, who also looked on. Refreshments and cake were served after the presentations to help celebrate the welcome home. Over 400 people attended the event, and it takes real Southwest Team work to make this Welcome Home Celebration happen. Numerous volunteers sign up through Share the Spirit to assist with the departure and return. On behalf of Community Affairs & Grassroots, we’d like to extend a special thank you to everyone who helped make each Veteran feel special. Many thanks also to the local departments who helped make it all happen namely, PHX Customer Support & Services, Ground Operations, Maintenance, and Provisioning. Acknowledgements also go to Ground Operations at BWI, who helped to welcome the group when they arrived in Washington D.C. and assisted with their return. We are grateful to Marketing for providing copies of Paige’s picture and essay, which were given to each of the 50 Veterans. And, of course, a big thank you goes to Charitable Giving for helping to make the trip possible and for suporting this program for the past ten years. Jackie Thompson with New Hire Jerry Gibbens As the wife of a 20-year Veteran, this program has special meaning to me. I am honored to work for a Company that allows us to make a difference in the lives of the men and women who have served with honor, but who may have never received the recognition they deserve. Along with my Fellow Employees, I look forward to greeting the next group of Veterans and many more in the years to come. Our Veterans Day is made extra special because of the heroes from Operation Freedom Bird that we Welcome Home each year. For more information on Operation Freedom Bird, please visit http://www.operationfreedombird.org/.
... View more
Pictures are worth a thousand words and the following photographs say it all! Last Tuesday, the Southwest Employees in Phoenix gave a great send off to veterans of Operation Freedom Bird on their way to recognize Veterans Day at the Capitol. Little did the Vietnam veterans know that a celebration was being planned for them when they returned. We put together a Welcome Home Ceremony for the returning veterans and invited friends and family along with past beneficiaries of the trip. When the aircraft arrived back in PHX, it was met with a water cannon salute from the Fire Department at Sky Harbor International. Once back inside, the veterans of the 2010 Operation Freedom Bird arrived home to cheers, hugs, and kisses from their loved ones. With about 350 in attendance, the event kicked off with the Presentation of the Colors by Luke Air Force Base Honor Guard. The highlight of the celebration for many was country recording artist Aaron Tippin who sang “Where the Stars and Stripes and the Eagle Fly” as well as his hit “You’ve Got to Stand for Something.” This was the 12th year Southwest Airlines has sponsored the Operation Freedom Bird trip for the Vietnam veterans who, for the first time this year, took along an Afghanistan and Iraq veteran. “I feel this was the best Operation Freedom Bird yet,” said Tim Magary, Southwest Lead Plant Maintenance Mechanic. “What was said, sung, and played this year, was so heartfelt that it made me proud to be a part of it. “ For more information on Operation Freedom Bird visit http://www.operationfreedombird.org/.
... View more
As the country prepares to honor our military on Veterans Day, Employees at Southwest Airlines got an early start today with a program called Operation Freedom Bird. This morning for the 12th year, Southwest Airlines sponsored a trip to Washington, D.C. for 50 Vietnam veterans. Each year, with the assistance of the Phoenix Veterans Center, the non-profit organization Operation Freedom Bird selects the veterans who take the emotional journey to see the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall and participate in Veterans Day activities. Our Employees were there when they left and we will be here when they return to give them a special welcome home. Stay tuned for more news as the Phoenix Employees at Southwest Airlines help honor those who bravely fought in Vietnam. You can visit http://www.operationfreedombird.org for more information on Operation Freedom Bird.
... View more