American Airlines and Its Employees Increase Commitment to Veterans and Military Personnel
The VMERG, the first of its type in the U.S. airline industry, is a group of employees whose purpose is to promote the roles and contributions of veterans and active-duty military employees and to serve as a liaison between American Airlines and the veteran and military communities. The VMERG currently has chapters in Cary, N.C., Chicago and at American's headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas.
"We are very excited to have the opportunity to unite the volunteer efforts already given by so many American employees," said Susan "Sam" Seelbach, VMERG President. "Our employees are very passionate about providing support to the men and women, both active duty and veterans, who bear our nation's colors and protect our freedoms."
Seelbach noted that while employees have volunteered for many years, the corporate infrastructure and support gained from organizing into an employee resource group will further increase the group's impact. In addition to its long history of employee volunteerism for veterans and the military, American has long supported these brave men and women at a corporate level through a variety of initiatives, ranging from special travel benefits to events for wounded veterans and programs for the families of fallen heroes.
American provides special travel benefits to qualifying active members of the military, including waived baggage fees, discounts on leisure travel, preferred-seating upgrades, and complimentary Admirals Club admission. An estimated 10,000 active military service members were guests at American's Admirals Clubs last year.
"I am proud to be a part of a company that so consistently and clearly demonstrates a commitment to our military," said Capt. Steve Blankenship, Director - Veterans Initiatives at American, noting that more than 60 percent of pilots and approximately 10 percent of all American Airlines employees are active military service members or veterans.
In May alone, American, American Eagle and employee volunteers supported programs including:
- Wounded Warrior Rodeo Roundup -- As the official airline of the Wounded Warrior Rodeo Roundup on May 29, American assisted with transportation for nearly 400 soldiers and family members from Killeen's Fort Hood, San Antonio's Brooke Army Medical Center and Walter Reed Army Hospital in Washington, D.C., to Milano, Texas, for a fun-filled weekend complete with a private rodeo, live concert and bass fishing tournament. Vietnam veteran and actor Dale Dye, known for his roles in Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan, served as master of ceremonies.
- Operation Iraqi Children "Thank-you" Event -- On May 28, American Airlines volunteers delivered thank-you letters to Grapevine Elementary School students from the Iraqi children who benefited from Operation Iraqi Children (OIC). In April, American and OIC partnered to transport more than 20 tons of cargo, including Crocs® shoes and school supplies, as well as letters from the Grapevine fifth-graders, for U.S. troops to deliver to Iraqi children. To see videos of the grateful Iraqi children receiving aid from OIC, go to http://bit.ly/3LdhZS.
- National Memorial Day Concert and Parade -- American was a sponsor of the national Memorial Day Concert, which aired nationwide on Sunday evening, May 24, on PBS. American also was the official airline of the nation's largest Memorial Day parade, in Washington, D.C., which attracted an estimated crowd of 300,000 and also aired on the Pentagon cable channel. American was represented in the parade by employees from its VMERG, the wife and children of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Michael Elledge, who was killed in Iraq in 2008. The Elledges - Carleen, Caleb and Cassidy - have participated in Snowball Express, an organization that brings together and provides special programs for the families of fallen military heroes.
- Race for Heroes -- On May 16, American sponsored the Race for Heroes at the Ballpark in Arlington, Texas. Nearly 1,500 participants joined 5K and 10K races to honor and pay tribute to the men and women who serve our country, with all proceeds benefiting Snowball Express. Special guests included retired Col. Ken Cordier, a Vietnam veteran who was a prisoner of war for more than six years.
- Marine Fleet Week -- The United States Marine Corps launched its inaugural Marine Fleet Week in Chicago, May 11-17, as the city welcomed nearly 2,000 Marines. American's VMERG, led by Chicago Chapter Chairwoman Linda Kozma, hosted the first-ever celebration at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport to recognize the contributions of the Marines. The event included a gate dedication ceremony and a chronological "History of the Marines" museum exhibit on display at Gate K3 May 11-14. A special guest at the celebration was Brig. Gen. Melvin G. Spiese.
In addition to these events, VMERG is spearheading plans for a North Carolina Heroes Gala Aug. 29 in Raleigh-Durham to benefit area service men and women. Plans are also under way for the seventh annual Sky Ball at Alliance Airport, scheduled for Oct. 24 in Fort Worth.
About American Airlines
American Airlines, American Eagle and AmericanConnection® serve 250 cities in 40 countries with, on average, more than 3,400 daily flights. The combined network fleet numbers more than 900 aircraft. American's award-winning Web site, AA.com®, provides users with easy access to check and book fares, plus personalized news, information and travel offers. American Airlines is a founding member of the oneworld® Alliance, which brings together some of the best and biggest names in the airline business, enabling them to offer their customers more services and benefits than any airline can provide on its own. Together, its members serve nearly 700 destinations in more than 130 countries and territories. American Airlines, Inc. and American Eagle Airlines, Inc. are subsidiaries of AMR Corporation. AmericanAirlines, American Eagle, AmericanConnection, AA.com, We know why you fly and AAdvantage are registered trademarks of American Airlines, Inc. (NYSE: AMR)
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