In March, AA partnered with the Congressional Medal of Honor Society in a reception and charter flight from New York to Washington D.C. for 32 of our country's most cherished treasures, U.S Congressional Medal of Honor recipients and their families.
"Being in the presence of these great Americans and hearing what they had to say about life, service, and honor was life changing for me," said Bill Clark – AA Corporate Communications.
The Congressional Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration awarded by the United States government. It is be-stowed on a member of the United States armed forces who distinguishes himself "conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States." Because of the nature of its criteria, the medal is often awarded posthumously. According to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, 3,447 soldiers have received the Medal (95 are alive today).
"I want to thank the employees of American Airlines for their commitment and dedication to honor their fellow Americans," said Robert Howard, President, CMH Charter. "We are awed, this is a magnificent reception. We get a lot of accolades, but I have never seen anything like this," added Joe Marm – 7th Cavalry Vietnam 1964.
AA is active in its support of military service through such endeavors as Seats for Soldiers and Snowball Express. The all-volunteer crew who worked the flight were both honored and privileged to help some of our country's heroes.
"As a veteran myself, I felt it was an incredible privilege to honor these people by working this flight. These people are incredible heroes," said Flight Attendant Bruce Ferris, a Vietnam vet 101st Airborne 1969-1970. "At a time when the word 'hero' is so over-used it is an honor to be in the presence of so many real heroes."
"It was an honor and a privilege to carry these veterans and their families for this event," added Captain Mike Roy, AA Pilot and retired Air Force.
The passengers were surprised at departure by the port authority with a water salute of the aircraft by the fire department. Chief Pilot Mark Cronin announced to the cabin that the salute "was an aviation tradition for those we honor."
The Navy Times (6/26, Maze) reports, "Department of Veterans Affairs officials expressed confidence that the Aug. 1 launch of the Post-9/11 GI Bill will go smoothly, with the first benefits checks to be cut by the Treasury Department on Aug. 3. Testifying Thursday before" a House Veterans Affairs Committee panel, Keith Wilson, the VA's education service director, "said about 84,000 applications have been received, with 47,000 already processed and awaiting final certification of enrollment and calculation of tuition and fee payments." Wilson, "the VA official responsible for the program, is optimistic partly because a test of the accuracy in processing claims found 92 percent were done correctly, and most of the errors 'were fairly benign.'"
NextGov (6/26, Brewin) says that when Congress passed the Post-9/11 GI Bill, "veterans groups and critics worried" the VA "didn't have time to build a computer system to process the applications. But VA is processing claims faster than it receives them thanks to new information technology systems that partially automate the work, top department officials told" the House Veterans Affairs Economic Opportunity Subcommittee on Thursday. NextGov adds, "Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, said he appreciates 'the fact VA is re-doubling its efforts to make sure the new GI bill payment process works' and added that veterans and Congress need to be reassured that the agency is prepared to pay Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans their correct education benefit in a timely manner."
Strains of patriotic songs played throughout the main concourse in Chicago as the 29 Palms Marine band entertained customers in May. The band was just one part of a ceremony cooridinated by AA to honor U.S. Marines. The concert was followed by a military color guard marching down the hallway and ending up at Gate K3.
AA's Veterans Military Employee Resource Group (VMERG), led by Officer Linda Kozma, dedicated the gate to the Marine Corps during their first ever "Marine Week." Marine Week celebrates the heritage and service of Marines past and present. During the week, 2,000 Marines participated in community volunteer projects, Marine Band concerts, exhibitions of marine equipment and more on Navy Pier and other city locations.
Tim Raynor, AA pilot and Lieutenant Colonel organized the entire fleet week. Raynor took six weeks off from AA to coordinate the event, working closely with the ORD VMERG to create the gate ceremony.
"I'm very proud to be an employee of American today, just seeing the courtesy that's been extended to the Marine Corps, an organization that I love," said Raynor. "That is where I started." AA employee veterans enjoyed the combination of military and AA traditions. "This is a good example of actions and deeds," said Arizo Ghaewski, Chairman, Local 512 Veteran's Committee. "Everybody says 'support the troops', well how do you support the troops? By just words? Well, this ceremony showed action."
Boston Military Group Honors AA for Its Long-Standing Support of U.S. Armed Forces The Ancient & Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts (AHAC), the oldest chartered military organization in North America, recognized American Airlines and its Boston-based employees for their service to the U.S. armed forces. American received the special award during AHAC's Ancients USO Night, its annual fund-raiser benefitting the USO New England.
"We remain humbled and in awe of the sacrifices our veterans and active military make in service to our country," said Jim Moses, American's General Manager at Boston. "These men and women are true heroes, and all of our efforts to support the military and their families is our way of saying thank you for their courage and dedication."
American's 1,900 Boston-based employees, along with their colleagues across the airline's system, support members of the military, veterans and their families, in their communities and when they travel. Special travel benefits include waived baggage fees, discounts on leisure travel, early boarding, preferred seating upgrades when available, Admirals Club admission for qualifying active members of the military, and travel sponsorship for Medal of Honor Recipients to their annual awards program.
In 2008, an American Boeing 757 and 737 were unveiled, with the tails of the two aircraft proudly sporting yellow-ribbon decals and the slogan, "In support of all who serve," on their fuselages. These two aircraft, along with a dedicated American Eagle ATR aircraft, are currently in service and are a daily reminder of AA's commitment to all of the troops currently serving the United States, as well as the thousands of American Airlines and American Eagle employees who are veterans or active service members.
American is the official airline of the National Memorial Day Parade, scheduled for May 25, 2009 at 2:00 on Constitution Avenue in Washington, D.C. Last year's parade drew over 300,000 spectators and a worldwide television audience. Just over 10 percent of American Airlines employees and over 65 percent of AA pilots are veterans.
AA joined the Academy of Country Music, West Point Choir and the Wounded Warrior Project to fly the West Point Choir and a wounded Iraq soldier to Las Vegas to participate in the Country Music Awards. 52 members of the West Point Choir traveled in uniform with one special Iraq soldier, U.S. Marine Corps Lieutenant Andrew Kindard.
In April 2007, about six weeks into his deployment in Iraq, Kindard lost both of his legs and suffered a laundry list of severe injuries when a 155 mm artillery shell that he was standing directly on top of was detonated. The days after the blast took Kindard to several medical facilities. He went into cardiac arrest multiple times and, immediately following the explosion, was issued 67 units of blood – before eventually arriving at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
Prior to the flight's arrival in Las Vegas (LAS), Agents Chris Johnson and Patti Ruiz made announcements inviting passengers in the gate area to assist them in welcoming him. It wasn't long before hundreds of passengers gathered around gate D8; many with cameras in hand. As he wheeled off the jet bridge into the lounge area, the huge crowd erupted in cheers and applause bringing an amazing ear-to-ear grin to Kindard's face and tears to the eyes of most of those present. It was a welcome that Lt. Kinard will not soon forget.