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Proud To Salute America's Troops
Our July 15, 2013, cover story on our country’s distinguished Medal of Honor recipients generated a response that was both passionate and humbling. We were proud to produce that issue, and we are equally pleased to again salute our servicemen and servicewomen with this special edition of “Air Mail.” Thank you to all of our men and women in uniform.

The first thing that caught my attention in your July 15 issue of American Way was the cover photo of Sgt. 1st Class Leroy A. Petry. I was thrilled to see your magazine honor someone who is serving his country. The article “Capital of Heroes” was inspiring and humbling, as it told stories of people past and present who have served and fought not only in wars but also in the arena of humanitarian efforts, nature conservation and equal rights. I laughed when I saw the name of Gary Sinise’s group, the Lt. Dan Band, thinking back to his character in Forrest Gump. Here is an actor who is using his name and celebrity to further the programs of his foundation, including building homes for triple and quadruple amputees. I’m glad your magazine is seeking out ­stories like this and making people aware of what is really newsworthy.
Joyce Young,
Epping, New South Wales, Australia

I used to travel once per month from Brazil to the U.S., and American Way always helped me to understand more about American culture. The July 15 issue was a highlight, with the story on war heroes. The article was really inspiring because it was about the American way of defending the U.S. principles. It’s always good to learn something new through these pages, and I hope that never changes. Thanks for keeping me up to date with the American culture.
Renato Galisteu, Guarulhos, Brazil

Thank you for the July 15 issue of American Way entitled “Courage.” I am a social worker­ stationed at an Army post that serves thousands­ of troops from all branches­ of the military. The day-to-day work with those who seek my help is demanding and rewarding. Your story “Capital of Heroes” reminded me that we each have the opportunity to be a hero every day. “Capital of Heroes” described the courage it takes to do more and to go that extra mile. The stories told were of the few, but they served as inspiration to the many to act as everyday heroes. It reignited that fire inside me. I took the magazine to place in the sick-call waiting area back at work, with hopes of inspiring the many service members who visit to find and take hold of the same spirit.
Julie Niven, Hopewell, Va.

On a recent flight, a young soldier in military dress sat quietly in First Class. He was composed but obviously affected by the task ahead. No one was aware of his mission until the plane landed and the pilot announced that aboard our flight was a 21-year-old soldier who had died in Afghanistan. He was being escorted home to his family by the young man in First Class. The pilot asked us to remain on the plane, and we watched from the windows as the family greeted his flag-draped casket. We could see his grieving parents and young widow accompanied by an honor guard, and the pageantry was humbling. The pilot and crew asked for a moment of silence to honor the young man and his sacrifice. We all stopped in our tracks and held hands, and there was not a dry eye on the plane. I thought of my own son, safely in college, and how fortunate I was to be able to call him and tell him how this young soldier had paid the ultimate price so we can continue to enjoy our freedom. The sensitivity of the pilot and the crew during the flight was apparent. I realize that the pilot and his crew have had to make these flights far too many times, but it was my first, and I was overwhelmed by the compassion and professionalism of the entire crew. Please thank all your crew members, who all too often help take young men and women home to their families on their last journey. They truly are shining examples of why America is so special.
Marlene Bersin Brumbaugh, Dallas

“Capital of Heroes” in the July 15 issue of American Way gives a well-deserved, touching tribute to our men and women in the military. They unselfishly serve — some sacrificing their lives — to give us grateful Americans the freedom and way of life we enjoy. Bravo! Thanks to American Airlines for doing their part to support these brave souls and their families — typical American Airlines excellence.
Cindy Gonzalez, Miami

I just want to give a big shout-out to the AA folks responsible for the boarding process on my recent flight from Charlotte, N.C., to Dallas/Fort Worth. There were about 25 uniformed soldiers on their way to their next assignment, and when boarding time came, it was announced that the soldiers would board first, ahead of everyone else. The crowd immediately applauded, and “God Bless America” was played over the speakers as they boarded. It was very moving and reminded me how much of a sacrifice these folks make every day so that we can enjoy the liberties that we routinely take for granted. Thank you again, American Airlines, for your continuous support of all our military men and women.
Dan Howell, Keller, Texas

PORTRAIT OF COURAGE: Sgt. 1st Class Leroy A. Petry, one of many Medal of Honor recipients profiled in our July 15 issue

I was on my way to watch my son graduate from the Army Leader’s Training Course at Ft. Knox, Ky., as he began his military career when I picked up the latest edition of American Way. As a 20-year Air Force veteran who comes from a military family — my dad was in the Air Force, my brother retired from the Air Force and my uncle and brother-in-law retired from the Army — I was profoundly appreciative to see the front cover portraying one of many American heroes with an ever-so-fitting title, “Courage.” As I combed through the articles portraying our heroes, I came across the column written by American Airlines Chairman and CEO Tom Horton. Thanks to him for his heartfelt words, along with the entire AA team for their support of the men and women who defend our country.
William J. Conley, Lt. Col., USAF (Ret.), Linwood, N.J.

I just received my American citizenship a few months ago, and I found myself reading “Capital of Heroes” in quite a different light. For perhaps the first time since receiving my new citizenship, I felt really proud to be an American, honoring with you those American heroes. I don’t always fly American Airlines, but I was impressed by the meaningful support you offer the armed forces, veterans and their families. From this new American citizen, thank you.
Kristen Greenaway, Durham, N.C.

On the last leg of a very long journey home from Beijing, I boarded a flight at LAX bound for El Paso, Texas. I hoped to stay awake in order to sleep upon arrival at my final destination. I have enjoyed American Way for many years, but I was particularly touched by the stories of courage surrounding our Medal of Honor recipients. Their humility and heroism were inspirational. Thank you for telling their special stories, not only on the battlefield but also after the smoke of war has cleared and they are living out their lives. In addition, thanks for all that American Airlines is doing in support of veteran causes. Reading that issue, I was transformed from simply attempting to stay awake to a state of captivation and pride for those who protect our freedom.
R. Maurice Hollingsworth, Ph.D.
Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church
Las Cruces, N.M.

I was on a flight recently when I read Tom Horton’s “Vantage Point” column “Heroes Among Us” (July 15). My grandfather was ­recently diagnosed with cancer, and Horton’s story on military veterans really hit close to home. My grandfather served in the United States Marine Corps during World War II and fought numerous battles, including Iwo Jima. He passed away on July 5, and I have never been more proud of him or his service. He fought the valiant fight and was one of the last WWII veterans still alive. Thank you, Mr. Horton and American Airlines, for recognizing the U.S. military active duty and veterans. They must never be forgotten.
Joel Mayfield, Yorba Linda, Calif.

When the pilot started talking on my recent flight, I thought it was his usual conversation about our flight, the weather and thanking us for being AAdvantage members. But then his tone changed, and he said that there was a soldier in First Class who was accompanying the body of one Sgt. Torres, one of our fallen heroes who had lost his life overseas. He asked us to pay our respects by holding off deplaning when we landed to allow the soldier to make it down the stairs to unload Sgt. Torres’ body. I was saddened and had a flashback of going to DFW gate B33 to say farewell to my older brother a couple of years ago. It was especially hard because my brother and I have always been so close because we are such opposites. I still shed a tear every time I fly out of the B terminal at DFW, especially passing by gate B33. Once we landed, everyone looked out the left side of the plane, where the family of Sgt. Torres stood. The soldier onboard made his way down the stairs, and Sgt. Torres was unloaded. Not one person left the flight until after the family was transported away, out of respect for our fallen hero. I was so proud at that moment to be onboard with 135 very respectful people. I am proud to be an American Airlines passenger.
Macci Pacheco, Dallas

The article on Medal of Honor recipients struck home. I had just listened to a public-­radio piece celebrating the lifesaving heroism­ of “ordinary” Americans toward their fellows, and to learn from the American Way article that none other than the Medal of Honor recipients were behind the organization sponsoring that recognition made the heroism of ordinary folks both in and out of the military that much more inspiring. As Tom Horton’s column stated in the same issue, “there are heroes all around us.” As I write this from the air, I am surpassing the 3-million-mile mark with American Airlines (this landing will make the total some 3,000,250), and I have been reading AW that entire time. The fact that I still pick it up every flight is testimony to the fact that you all have kept it compelling with articles like this one. Keep up the good work!
CJ Stumpf, East Randolph, Vt.

HAROLD A. FRITZ (PRESIDENT, CONGRESSIONAL MEDAL OF HONOR SOCIETY) AND THOMAS L. WILKERSON (PRESIDENT, CONGRESSIONAL MEDAL OF HONOR FOUNDATION) RESPONDS: These letters from around the globe are a humbling tribute to all American veterans, especially the living recipients, and they could not go unanswered. Of the more than 42 million men and women who have served in uniform since the Civil War, fewer than 3,600 have received our nation’s highest award for valor: the Medal of Honor. Since the beginning of World War II, more than 60 percent of those medals have been awarded posthumously. The living recipients wear the medal for all of them. Mindful of this responsibility, the living recipients searched for the right way to ensure the legacy of the medal. They found it in the timeless character traits identified with the medal: courage, sacrifice, selflessness and patriotism. They knew that these character traits were present in every American citizen, and instinctively, they understood that Americans need not be in combat against the nation’s enemies to demonstrate them. The recipients prove it each year through our Citizen Honors program, recognizing hometown heroes from everyday life, and teach it to young Americans through our flagship Character Development Program (CDP), which is focused on the value of good citizenship through strength of character and service above self. You can learn more about both of these programs at On behalf of the Society, its Foundation and the 79 living recipients, we salute American Airlines, the almost 90,000 members of the American Airlines team and American Way magazine for helping us to share our message of hope through the enduring legacy of the Medal of Honor.