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Penning this month’s column, I am in an unusual position. With the presidential election slated for November 4, by the time most of you read this, we will have elected our new president (knock on wood). From my vantage point, as I’m writing this column in late September, the election outcome seems impossible to predict. So, readers, you are up to speed on an important issue I can at this point only wonder about. But based on the energy I’m seeing now, I am going to go out on a limb and optimistically predict a record voter turnout. I say “optimistically” because the health of our democracy obviously depends on the participation of our citizens.
The right to vote is one of the most sacred and fundamental liberties we enjoy as Americans. We must not take it lightly, and we must not forget the millions of fellow Americans who have fought and sacrificed -- and who continue to do so -- for the idea that we all have a right to participate and to have our voices heard on the issues that affect us.
I daresay most Americans understand that the life we enjoy comes at a price, and the price is often highest for those who contribute the most. For example, our friends and neighbors serving in the armed forces bear, along with their families, a uniquely heavy burden on our behalf. I’m proud to say that American Airlines’ ties to the military go back several generations. Our patriarch, C.R. Smith, was deputy commander of the Air Transport Command during World War II. Throughout our history, countless AA careers have been preceded by military service, and in the last few years, thousands of AA employees in the Reserves or National Guard have been called to active duty.
I am proud of the patriotic spirit that has always helped to define American Airlines. Our people have shown time and again that true patriotism is not just about what you feel or say; it is, most of all, about what you do. And one of the things we are determined to do is to help the families of the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf. One of the many ways we’re doing that is by supporting an initiative called Snowball Express.
Snowball Express began in 2006 as a way to honor the children of the men and women who have died while serving in the U.S. military since 9/11. The first year, nearly 900 family members from around the country were brought together in Southern California for a wonderful, all-expenses-paid holiday gathering. These families discovered that they were neither alone nor forgotten. Last year, more than 1,100 kids and surviving parents attended, and an even bigger turnout is expected at this year’s event, which takes place next month. We are proud to be the official airline of Snowball Express. We have donated the use of a number of aircraft for charter purposes, and our pilots and flight attendants have donated their time to get the families to the event and help make sure they have a wonderful experience.
Helping to bring a few days of happiness into these children’s lives can hardly begin to repay the debt we owe them and their parents. While we cannot give them all they deserve, we must give them all we can, and in fact, it is our privilege to do so. If you would like more information about this very worthy cause, or if you would like to offer your support, please visit www.snowballexpress.org.
With Thanksgiving upon us, I want to thank you, on behalf of everyone at American Airlines, for letting us serve you today. May you and yours enjoy the best of everything this holiday season.
Gerard J. Arpey
Chairman & CEO