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With Thanksgiving upon us, I would like to use this month’s column to express heartfelt gratitude, both personally and on behalf of the entire American Airlines team, to the men and women of the United States armed forces; their courage and sacrifice make it possible for us to do the work we love to do and to live the lives we want to live. The people of American Airlines realize that we owe a debt to our country’s active-duty soldiers and veterans -- and to their families -- that can never really be repaid. But we feel duty-bound to provide whatever support we can.
Our ties to the military go back several generations. Today, one out of every 10 AA employees and six out of every 10 pilots are either veterans or still in active military service. So it’s no surprise that our people leap at the chance to help those, including those within our own ranks, who have given so much on our behalf. We recently established a Veteran Military Employee Resource Group within our company, which is devoted to supporting our veteran- and active-military colleagues and their families.
Each year, hundreds of Aires volunteer their time to put on Sky Ball, a fund-raiser to support the families of military personnel in North Texas. Unfortunately, there is too often a disconnect between the courageous service of our armed forces overseas and the level of support they and their families receive at home. The money we raise at Sky Ball helps make sure military families in our community have food on the table, assists with mortgage and car payments, and supports welcome-home events for soldiers returning from war, among other things.
Our people are also deeply involved with Snowball Express, a volunteer organization established to provide a fun, all-expenses-paid holiday for the children and spouses of fallen military heroes. AA is the official airline of Snowball Express, and this year we will bring more than 2,000 military families to the Dallas/Fort Worth area for the festivities. Hundreds of AA volunteers donate their time to help get the families to the event and make sure they have a great time. We’re proud of the role we play in reminding these families that they are neither alone nor forgotten, and I hope you’ll visit www.snowballexpress.org and consider contributing to this program, which brings a lot of joy to the families of those who sacrificed everything on our behalf.
The people of American Airlines have also rallied around Operation Iraqi Children (OIC), a grassroots initiative founded by actor Gary Sinise and author Laura Hillenbrand that supports the ongoing efforts of U.S. troops to provide the children of Iraq and Afghanistan with the kind of basic school supplies children in our country take for granted. Earlier this year, AA volunteers executed the biggest one-time shipment of supplies in the program’s history, delivering more than 20 tons of books, blankets, shoes, and other necessities, all of which were then distributed by U.S. troops to the children of Iraq. OIC does tremendous work on behalf of children who need help, so I hope you will visit www.operationiraqichildren.org and learn how you can help.
As you know, we are always on the lookout for ways to leverage the size and popularity of the AAdvantage program to help our customers make a positive difference in the world. One of the causes we are most proud to support is called Operation Hero Miles. Through a partnership with Fisher House (learn more and get involved at www.fisherhouse.org), our customers are able to donate miles that will help provide air travel to family and friends visiting U.S. service members who are being treated at military hospitals around the world.
We are deeply grateful to our men and women in uniform. But simple gratitude is not enough. These organizations represent just a small sample of the many opportunities we have to make a tangible difference for those who have risked, and too often sacrificed, their lives to protect ours. Thank you for supporting our troops, and thank you for flying with us. I wish you and your families the best this holiday season.
Gerard J. Arpey
Chairman & CEO