Throughout this entire weekend, you are likely to see American flags and other patriotic flare at parades, within our country’s National Cemeteries, and, of course, at the many war memorials dedicated to the honored dead who once so proudly served in uniform. Friends and family of these fallen heroes often visit the war memorials on Memorial Day to pay their respects, as do military personnel and veterans.
Here at Southwest Airlines, our Employees are proud to serve America’s military, both active duty and veterans, all year round, and we join them on this year’s Memorial Day in offering our respect and remembrance to all those who lost their lives in service to our country.
Since 2009, Southwest has been the official commercial airline of the Honor Flight Network, an organization dedicated to providing veterans with the opportunity to visit their war memorials in Washington, D.C. Over the past four years, Southwest has provided $2 million in free travel to more than 5,100 veterans through this worthy organization.
A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of meeting Roland Ptak of the United States Navy Air Corps. A World War II veteran, Mr. Ptak served in the South Atlantic during the war, escorting convoys and managing rescue operations. Southwest and the Honor Flight Network flew Mr. Ptak from Phoenix to Washington D.C. to visit his war memorial, nearly seven decades after the conflict.
Ptak told me that it was “very, very humbling” to have participated in an Honor Flight with a group of fellow veterans who had survived World War II. As the Veterans boarded their flight in Phoenix, they were met by a large group of Southwest Employees and other smiling supporters, cheering for them as they arrived.
“One of the most important moments for me was the expressions of the people who came up to us, thanking us for our service,” said Ptak, reflecting on his trip. “It was so absolutely soul-feeding.”
Last year, Southwest announced that it would continue to provide free travel to veterans through the Honor Flight Network, pledging $1.2 million through 2015. I’m proud and thankful that I was able to witness Roland Ptak’s dream come true, and even prouder that my Company will continue to provide thousands of other veterans with the same opportunity to pay their respects to the fallen comrades they lost so many years ago.
When you watch this video, I hope you can get a sense of how much these trips mean to these veterans. Whatever your plans are for Memorial Day, take a moment to remember those who have sacrificed their all to protect our Freedoms.