Love in the air
This year marks a major milestone for Peter Methot and Anna Lenhoff-Methot as they celebrate twenty one years of marriage. During that time, they've managed to raise three wonderful boys, sustain a happy, loving relationship and build successful careers here at United. Those accomplishments alone would be impressive enough, but picture them doing all of that while circumnavigating the globe, oftentimes in opposite directions of one another.
As pilots, Los Angeles-based First Officers Peter and Anna share a special bond, first as husband and wife and then as colleagues. While it's certainly rare to find two spouses who both fly, the way that Anna and Peter met is perhaps the most inexplicable thing about their unique story. "It was my second day at United, and I was in the training center (in Denver) late one Friday night finishing up some work," Anna said. "I had been on the computer for hours and went to take a break; that's when I bumped into Peter." Peter was there burning the midnight oil in hopes of getting away for a weekend ski trip, but one word from Anna stopped him in his tracks. "I didn't expect to see anyone else there at that time of night, so it surprised me," he recalled. "Then I heard Anna speak, and she had an accent. I asked her, 'Are you Swedish?' and she said yes. I recognized it instantly because I speak Swedish — my mother is actually from Sweden."
From that night forward they were inseparable, as friends and then as a couple, growing close thanks to their mutual interests in flying, the outdoors and a little healthy competition. "We're both athletic, so we spent our off days hiking and skiing; we really pushed each other," Peter said. He still laughs when remembering one tell-tale date in particular: "Once, we drove to the Grand Canyon. We arrived late in the day, but we were determined to hike down to the bottom and back," he said. "There was a sign posted that warned you not to attempt the hike in one day, but we did it anyway by basically jogging all the way down the trail and back up. Neither of us wanted to admit to the other that we couldn't do it. Of course, for weeks afterwards we could barely walk because we were so sore."
After a year-and-a-half together, Anna and Peter married, which is when the real adventure began. Early on in their relationship, flying separately didn't pose much of a problem, aside from some hefty long distance bills. But after their first son was born, they were forced to get creative. "We decided that it would be best to bid opposite schedules so that one of us was always home, which meant spending less time together," Anna said. "It's been a big challenge, but we've really tried to communicate and focus on each other as much as we can. FaceTime has helped tremendously in recent years."
In spite of the sacrifices they've made to ensure that their boys always have at least one of them present, there have been some definite benefits. "It's wonderful to be married to someone who understands flying," Anna said, "and someone who understands what it's like to get home after a long trip and have to readjust. Having a fellow pilot in the house has been helpful." Peter, too, spoke highly of the support system that they've cultivated. "You can share your feelings, talk about your work and grow together," he said. "You can bounce questions and opinions off of each other — I can talk to her about what it's like to fly into Maui, and she can add to the conversation from a professional perspective."
Over the years they've learned to juggle their jobs and their family in a positive way, which oftentimes means wearing multiple hats. When Peter is home and Anna is away on a trip, he plays mom and dad; when Anna is home she plays both roles. And that's something that they believe has benefited their children. "They see us as equals," Peter said, "and they don't see being a pilot as a 'boy job' or a 'girl job.' Throughout their lives, we've tried to put in an equal amount of effort as parents."
"I'm really glad that we sacrificed date night so that we could spend more time as a family," Anna said when thinking back on the few nights alone she and Peter have enjoyed over the years. "I think our kids are well-rounded because of it. That's kudos to our profession and United Airlines, the fact that one of us has always been able to be home with them." Last December, however, the Methots were surprised to learn that they would be flying together for the first time in their lives. "It just so happened that we were bidding flights, and we were both trying to have Christmas off since I worked last year and missed it," Anna said. "We were randomly assigned to the same London trip. After it was over, we were glad to have done it, but at the time it was honestly a little stressful knowing that we would both be away from the boys."
Peter and Anna's youngest is in the seventh grade, so they have a few years left to go before they can start working the same schedule again, with days off together. But even after all the years, the countless flights and the time apart, Peter and Anna are happy with where they've landed. "Our life has been one surprise after another," Anna said. "The fact that we have managed three kids, that we've been able to live our lives as pilots and that we're happy — we wouldn't trade it for anything."
Right now, around the world, brave members of America's armed forces are on duty, defending our freedom and upholding our values.
When not laser-focused on the mission at hand, they're looking forward to the day when their service to our nation is fulfilled and they can reunite with their families.
They are also imagining how they can use their hard-earned skills to build an exciting, rewarding and important career when they return home.
I want them to look no further than United Airlines.
That's why we are focused on recruiting, developing and championing veterans across our company, demonstrating to our returning women and men in uniform that United is the best possible place for them to put their training, knowledge, discipline and character to the noblest use.
They've developed their knowledge and skills in some of the worst of times. We hope they will use those skills to keep United performing at our best, all of the time.
That's why we are accelerating our efforts to onboard the best and the brightest, and substantially increasing our overall recruitment numbers each year.
We recently launched a new sponsorship program to support onboarding veterans into United and a new care package program to support deployed employees. It's one more reason why United continues to rank high - and rise higher - as a top workplace for veterans. In fact, we jumped 21 spots this year on Indeed.com's list of the top U.S workplaces for veterans. This is a testament to our increased recruiting efforts, as well as our efforts to create a culture where veterans feel valued and supported.
We use the special reach and resources of our global operations to partner with outstanding organizations. This is our way of stepping up and going the extra mile for all those who've stepped forward to answer our nation's call.
We do this year-round, and the month of November is no exception; however, it is exceptional, especially as we mark Veterans Day.
As we pay tribute to all Americans who have served in uniform and carried our flag into battle throughout our history, let's also keep our thoughts with the women and men who are serving around the world, now. They belong to a generation of post-9/11 veterans who've taken part in the longest sustained period of conflict in our history.
Never has so much been asked by so many of so few.... for so long. These heroes represent every color and creed. They are drawn from across the country and many immigrated to our shores.
They then freely choose to serve in the most distant and dangerous regions of the world, to protect democracy in its moments of maximum danger.
Wherever they serve - however they serve - whether they put on a uniform each day, or serve in ways which may never be fully known, these Americans wake up each morning willing to offer the "last full measure of devotion" on our behalf.
Every time they do so, they provide a stunning rebuke to the kinds of voices around the world who doubt freedom and democracy's ability to defend itself.
Unfortunately, we know there are those who seem to not understand – or say they do not - what it is that inspires a free people to step forward, willing to lay down their lives so that their country and fellow citizens might live.
But, we – who are both the wards and stewards of the democracy which has been preserved and handed down to us by veterans throughout our history – do understand.
We know that inciting fear and hatred of others is a source of weakness, not strength. And such divisive rhetoric can never inspire solidarity or sacrifice like love for others and love of country can.
It is this quality of devotion that we most honor in our veterans - those who have served, do serve and will serve.
On behalf of a grateful family of 96,000, thank you for your service.
Each year around Veterans Day, Indeed, one of the world's largest job search engines, rates companies based on actual employee reviews to identify which ones offer the best opportunities and benefits for current and former U.S. military members. Our dramatic improvement in the rankings this year reflects a stronger commitment than ever before to actively recruiting, developing and nurturing veteran talent.
"We've spent a lot of time over the past 12 months looking for ways to better connect with our employees who served and attract new employees from the military ranks," said Global Catering Operations and Logistics Managing Director Ryan Melby, a U.S. Army veteran and the president of our United for Veterans business resource group.
"Our group is launching a mentorship program, for instance, where we'll assign existing employee-veterans to work with new hires who come to us from the armed forces. Having a friend and an ally like that, someone who can help you translate the skills you picked up in the military to what we do as a civilian company, is invaluable. That initiative is still in its infancy, but I'm really optimistic about what it can do for United and for our veteran population here."
Impressively, we were the only one of our industry peers to move up on the list, further evidence that we're on a good track as a company.
The question of where David Ferrari was had haunted retired U.S. Army Sergeant Major Vincent Salceto for the better part of 66 years.
Rarely did a week go by that Salceto didn't think about his old friend. Often, he relived their last moments together in a recurring nightmare. In it, it's once again 1953 and Salceto and Ferrari are patrolling a valley in what is now North Korea. Suddenly, explosions shatter the silence and flares light up the night sky.
Crouching under a barrage of bullets, Salceto, the squad's leader, drags two of his men to safety, then he sees Ferrari lying face down on the ground. He runs out to help him, but he's too late. And that's when he always wakes up.
Italian Americans from opposite coasts – Salceto from Philadelphia, Ferrari from San Francisco – the two became close, almost like brothers, after being assigned to the same unit during the Korean War. When Ferrari died, it hit Salceto hard.
"After that, I never let anyone get close to me like I did with Dave," he says. "I couldn't; I didn't want to go through that again."
When the war ended, Salceto wanted to tell Ferrari's family how brave their son and brother had been in battle. Most of all, he wanted to salute his friend at his gravesite and give him a proper farewell.
For decades, though, Salceto had no luck finding his final resting place or locating any of his relatives. Then, in June of this year, he uncovered a clue that led him to the Italian Cemetary in Colma, California, where Ferrari is buried.
Within days, Salceto, who lives in Franklinville, New Jersey, was packed and sitting aboard United Flight 731 from Philadelphia to San Francisco with his wife, Amy, and daughter, Donna Decker, on his way to Colma. For such a meaningful trip, he even wore his Army dress uniform.
That's how San Francisco-based flight attendant Noreen Baldwin spotted him as he walked down the jet bridge to get on the plane.
"I saw him and said to the other crew members, 'Oh my goodness, look at this guy,'" she says. "I knew there had to be a story."
The two struck up a conversation and Salceto told Baldwin why he was traveling. She got emotional listening to him talk and made a point of fussing over him, making sure he and his family had everything they needed.
About halfway through the flight, Baldwin had an idea. She and her fellow crew members would write messages of encouragement to Salceto and invite his fellow passengers to do the same.
"We did it discreetly," says Baldwin. "I asked the customers if they saw the man in uniform, which most had, and asked them if they wanted to write a few words for him on a cocktail napkin. A lot of people did; families did it together, parents got their kids to write something. After the first few rows, I was so choked up that I could barely talk."
When Baldwin surprised Salceto with dozens of hand-written notes, he, too, was speechless. He laid the stack on his lap and read each one. At the same time, the pilots made an announcement about the veteran over the loud speaker, after which the customers on board burst into applause.
"It seems contrived, and I hate using the word organic, but that's what it was; it just happened," Baldwin says. "Mr. Salceto was so loveable and humble, and what he was doing was so incredible, it felt like the right thing to do. And you could tell he was touched."
On June 27, Salceto finally stood before Ferrari's grave and said that long-awaited goodbye. As a trumpeter played "Taps," he unpinned a medal from his jacket and laid it reverently on the headstone.
"I had gotten a Bronze Star for my actions [the night Ferrari died] with a 'V' for valor, and that was the medal I put on Dave's grave," says Salceto, pausing to fight back tears. "I thought he was more deserving of it than I was."
For the first time in years, Salceto felt at peace. His mission was accomplished.