I am happy to once again contribute to Celebrated Living’s special Gift Guide issue, and I would like to use my column this year to encourage you to support the men and women of the United States armed forces, whose gift of courageous service and sacrifice makes 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 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 who have given so much on their behalf -- including those within our own ranks. We recently established a Veteran Military Employee Resource Group within our company, devoted to supporting our veteran and active military colleagues and their families.
Each year, hundreds of AAers volunteer their time to put on Sky Ball, a fundraiser 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. Among other things, 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 payment problems, and supports welcome-home events for soldiers returning from war.
Our people are also deeply involved in Snowball Express, a volunteer organization established to provide a fun, all-expense-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.
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 are used to provide air travel to family and friends visiting U.S. servicemen who are being treated at military hospitals around the world.
I know we are all deeply grateful to our men and women in uniform. But simple gratitude is not enough. Fortunately, the organizations above represent just a small sample of the many opportunities we have to give back, and 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 of course, thank you for flying with us today.
Gerard J. Arpey
Chairman and CEO American Airlines