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I would like to devote this column to thanking the men and women of the United States armed forces. The people of American Airlines have always appreciated that countless people have borne heavy burdens and sacrificed greatly — many, in fact, making the ultimate sacrifice — so that we would have the opportunity to do the work we love to do and live the kinds of lives we choose. Our ties to the military are strong, and go back several generations. More than 60 percent of our pilots, and 10 percent of all AA employees, are either veterans or still in active military service. Our Veteran Military Employee Resource Group is devoted to supporting our veteran and active military colleagues as well as their families, and time after time, our people leap at the chance to help those who have served on their behalf.
Every year, hundreds of AAers donate their time to host an event called Sky Ball at our aircraft maintenance base in Fort Worth, Texas. Sky Ball is a fundraiser that supports the families of military personnel in North Texas. In our view, there is an unfortunate disconnect between the courageous service of our armed forces overseas and the level of support they and their families receive at home. Sky Ball is an attempt to address that disconnect. Among other things, the money we raise at Sky Ball helps make sure military families have food on the table, assists with mortgage and car payments, and helps fund welcome-home events for soldiers returning from war.
Our people are also deeply involved in Snowball Express, a volunteer organization that provides a fun, all-expenses-paid holiday for the children and spouses of fallen military heroes. Hundreds of American Airlines volunteers give their time to help get the families to the event and make sure they have a wonderful experience. We are proud to be the official airline of Snowball Express, which each year reminds hundreds of military families that they are neither alone nor forgotten. I hope you will visit SnowballExpress.org and consider contributing to this program.
In 2010 we launched a partnership with Mercy Medical Airlift, an organization that helps active military service members, veterans, and their immediate families travel for medical and rehabilitation services through its Air Compassion for Veterans program. To raise funds for this worthy cause, we have tapped one of our greatest strengths, the ingenuity of our people. Through this partnership, a portion (well over a million dollars so far) of the money we are saving through our ongoing fuel-conservation efforts is now contributed to Air Compassion for Veterans.
We are always on the lookout for ways to leverage the size and popularity of the AAdvantage program — and the natural generosity of our customers — to make a difference in the world. One of the many worthy organizations we are proud to support is the USO. The USO, as you probably know, lifts the spirits of America’s troops and their families in a variety of ways. AA is the official airline of the USO, and we are hoping to enlist you in supporting it as well. One way you can contribute is by buying an American Airlines gift card. When you do so, and select the USO gift card option, we will donate $5 for every $50 of travel purchased. Another good option is to support our Miles in Support of All Who Serve campaign, in which AAdvantage members receive 10 miles for every dollar donated ($25 minimum). Please visit AA.com/JoinUs to learn more.
These are just a few of the ways we are trying to let our men and women in uniform and their families know how much we appreciate them. As you may have seen, we have also expressed our appreciation through two recent television commercials, entitled “Thank You” and “Putting Them First.”
As we count our blessings, especially during the holiday season, let’s give thanks for the thousands of men and women all over the world — connected to us only by the fact that they, too, are Americans — who keep us safe, day after day. Let’s resolve to live lives worthy of their service and sacrifice. We cannot give them all they deserve, but let’s make sure we’re giving them all the support we can.
Gerard J. Arpey