Memories of a Son on Memorial Day - United Hub
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Memories of a son as U.S. observes Memorial Day

By The Hub team, May 26, 2017

San Francisco Sheet Metal Technician Tom Ballard shared this story, "What Memorial Day means to me," about his son, 1st Lt. Ken Ballard, who was killed in action in Iraq in 2004.

My only child, Kenneth Michael Ballard was born at Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, New York, on July 21, 1977, in the fourth year of my 20-year career with the U.S. Air Force. His family lineage has been one full of military service to our nation. His great grandfather served in WWI, and both his grandfathers, his grandmother, father, uncles and cousins all served in the military, totaling some 117 years of service.


Lt. Ken Ballard serving in Iraq

Ken joined the U.S. Army after graduating high school in 1995. Pvt. Ken Ballard's first assignment was with the 2nd Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment, 1st Armored Division, (General Patton's WWII unit "Old Ironsides") out of Friedberg, Germany. He was an Abrams tank ammunition loader, soon to be serving with our NATO forces in Bosnia and Macedonia.

His superiors saw he was a true leader. He was placed into a program called "From Green to Gold," a program that moved an individual from the enlisted ranks to become an officer.

In 1998, Ken took leave from active duty in Germany to attend Middle Tennessee State University. In 2002, Ken earned his degree in international relations. At Ken's commissioning ceremony, his mother and I pinned on his 2nd Lt. bars. (Bars I had made of pure gold.)

Returning to active duty, Ken started training to be an Abrams tank commander.

His first assignment was back to Friedberg, Germany, back with the 1st Armored. Within the year, their unit was given their orders to deploy. On the May 22, 2003, their unit crossed the border into Iraq – the start of their first-year tour of combat.

Three hundred sixty-five days later, the 1st Armored was ready to head home. They felt very blessed to have served their year in-country without having lost a single soldier. They had packed their personal gear and were ready to go. Time to pass the command over to the new incoming troops. "WE MADE IT. WE ARE GOING HOME!!!!!" All this was about to change.

Orders had been cut – the 1st Armored was placed on an involuntary extension. Insurgents were launching large-scale attacks into the twin cities of Al-Kufa and Al-Najaf, an area considered to be very sacred, holy land to the people of Iraq. Headquarters felt it would be wiser to send seasoned rather than inexperienced troops into an extremely hot combat zone.

On Memorial Day, May 30, 2004, eight days into their extension, the 1st Armored lost their first soldier. Pfc. Nicholas E. Zimmer, age 20, of Columbus, Ohio. His vehicle came under attack by rocket-propelled grenades. Eight hours later, while I was attending a gathering with friends at home, we raised our glasses in a toast, thanking those that have given their lives protecting freedom around the world. At precisely that time, halfway around the world, my son was lost.

Ken Ballard's gravestone surronded by flowers and American flags

Twelve hours later, I was back at work in central control at SFO Air Train. My brother in Denver called me. He asked where I was. I told him and asked why? He told me that two old military buddies were passing through the airport and knew that I worked there. They wanted to stop by and say hello. I told him where I was and hung up.

A few hours had passed. I forgot about my brother's call. I noticed our safety officer on the first floor CCTV monitor. He was holding the door open looking left and right as if he was looking for someone. I got distracted, and when I looked back he was gone.

A short while later, the safety officer entered central control and asked me to accompany him to his office.

As I opened his office door, I saw two sharply dressed men in their formal military uniforms. Nothing needed to be said. My life as I knew it had been changed. No more birthdays. No grandchildren.

The Ballards' unscathed military history of 117 years of service had changed overnight.

Ken's unit returned to the U.S. on the Fourth of July 2004.

Two months after my son died, a much respected friend who we all work with at UAL was notified his nephew, Spc. Anthony J. Dixon, was killed in Samarra, Iraq.

Tom Ballard saluting at his son's funeral.

You may be surprised at the number of people you work with on a daily basis. Many have served defending our freedoms. Some silently carry the pain of the loss of a loved one – a loved one that stood in front of you, defending your freedoms.

Memorial Day has always held a very special place in my heart. Now more than ever.

Remember why we commemorate this day. MEMORIAL DAY.

Think about it, when we are all given the day off. Who has made this day possible?

Take the time this weekend to think of those that gave their lives so you can live yours with freedom.

United Cargo and logistics partners keep critical medical shipments moving

By The Hub team, July 02, 2020

By working together and strengthening partnerships during these unprecedented times, our global community has overcome challenges and created solutions to keep the global supply chain moving. As COVID-19 continues to disrupt the shipping landscape, United and our industry partners have increasingly demonstrated our commitment to the mission of delivering critical medical supplies across the world.

United Cargo has partnered with DSV Air and Sea, a leading global logistics company, to transport important pharmaceutical materials to places all over the world. One of the items most critical during the current crisis is blood plasma.

Plasma is a fragile product that requires very careful handling. Frozen blood plasma must be kept at a very low, stable temperature of negative 20 degrees Celsius or less – no easy task considering it must be transported between trucks, warehouses and airplanes, all while moving through the climates of different countries. Fortunately, along with our well-developed operational procedures and oversight, temperature-controlled shipping containers from partners like va-Q-tec can help protect these sensitive blood plasma shipments from temperature changes.

A single TWINx shipping container from va-Q-tec can accommodate over 1,750 pounds of temperature-sensitive cargo. Every week, DSV delivers 20 TWINx containers, each one filled to capacity with human blood plasma, for loading onto a Boeing 787-9 for transport. The joint effort to move thousands of pounds of blood plasma demonstrates that despite the distance, challenges in moving temperature-sensitive cargo and COVID-19 obstacles, we continue to find creative solutions with the help of our strong partnerships.

United Cargo is proud to keep the commercial air bridges open between the U.S. and the rest of the world. Since March 19, we have operated over 3,200 cargo-only flights between six U.S. hubs and over 20 cities in Asia, Australia, Europe, South America, India, the Caribbean and the Middle East.

Celebrating Juneteenth

By United Airlines, June 18, 2020

A message from UNITE, United Airlines Multicultural Business Resource Group

Fellow United team members –

Hello from the UNITE leadership team. While we communicate frequently with our 3,500 UNITE members, our platform doesn't typically extend to the entire United family, and we are grateful for the opportunity to share some of our thoughts with all of you.

Tomorrow is June 19. On this day in 1865, shortened long ago to "Juneteenth," Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, to announce that the Civil War had ended and all enslaved individuals were free. For many in the African-American community, particularly in the South, it is recognized as the official date slavery ended in the United States.

Still, despite the end of slavery, the Constitutional promise that "All men are created equal" would overlook the nation's Black citizens for decades to come. It wasn't until nearly a century later that the Civil Rights Act (1964) ended legal segregation and the Voting Rights Act (1965) protected voting rights for Black Americans. But while the nation has made progress, the killings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and George Floyd have made it undeniably clear that we still have a lot of work to do to achieve racial parity and inclusion.

Two weeks ago, Scott and Brett hosted a virtual town hall and set an important example by taking a minute, as Brett said, "to lower my guard, take off my armor, and just talk to you. And talk to you straight from the heart."

Difficult conversations about race and equity are easy to avoid. But everyone needs to have these conversations – speaking honestly, listening patiently and understanding that others' experiences may be different from your own while still a valid reflection of some part of the American experience.

To support you as you consider these conversations, we wanted to share some resources from one of United's partners, The National Museum of African American History and Culture. The museum will host an all-day Virtual Juneteenth Celebration to recognize Juneteenth through presentations, stories, photographs and recipes. The museum also has a portal that United employees can access called Talking About Race, which provides tools and guidance for everyone to navigate conversations about race.

Our mission at UNITE is to foster an inclusive working environment for all of our employees. While we are hopeful and even encouraged by the widespread and diverse show of support for African Americans around the country – and at United - we encourage everyone to spend some time on Juneteenth reflecting on racial disparities that remain in our society and dedicating ourselves to the work that still must be done to fight systemic racism. By honoring how far we've come and honestly acknowledging how far we still must go, we believe United – and the incredible people who are the heart and soul of this airline - can play an important role in building a more fair and just world.

Thank you,

UNITE (United Airlines Multicultural Business Resource Group)

Leadership Team

Making every step of the travel journey safer for you

By United Airlines, May 20, 2020
United Clean Plus | Clorox

We remain passionate about connecting the world safely

United CleanPlus SM is our commitment to putting health and safety at the forefront of your journey, with the goal of delivering an industry-leading standard of cleanliness. We're teaming up with Clorox to redefine our cleaning and disinfection procedures, and over the coming months, we'll roll out Clorox products across our U.S. airports, starting in select locations, to help support a healthy and safe environment, and to provide transparency and choice throughout the travel journey.

At the airport

  • At check-in:

  • 1
    Implementing temperature checks for employees and flight attendants working at hub airports
  • 2
    Installing sneeze guards at check-in and gate podiums
  • 3
    Encouraging use of the United app for contactless travel assistance and more
  • 4
    Promoting social distancing with floor decals to help customers stand 6 feet apart
  • 5
    Rolling out touchless check-in for customers with bags
  • At the gate:

  • 6
    Disinfecting high-touch areas such as door handles, handrails, elevator buttons, telephones and computers
  • 7
    Providing hand sanitizer and
    disinfectant wipes
  • 8
    Allowing customers to self-scan boarding passes
  • 9
    Boarding fewer customers at a time and, after pre-boarding, boarding from the back of the plane to the front to promote social distancing
  • 10
    Rolling out Clorox Total 360 Electrostatic Sprayers to disinfect in the airport

On our aircraft

  • 1
    Providing individual hand sanitizer wipes for customers
  • 2
    Requiring all customers and employees to wear a face covering and providing disposable face coverings for customers who need them
  • 3
    Providing onboard items like pillows and blankets upon request
  • 4
    Disinfecting high-touch areas, like tray tables and armrests, before boarding
  • 5
    Reducing contact between flight attendants and customers during snack and beverage service
  • 6
    Ensuring aircraft cleaning standards meet or exceed CDC guidelines
  • 7
    Using electrostatic spraying to disinfect aircraft
  • 8
    Using state-of-the-art, hospital-grade, high-efficiency (HEPA) filters to circulate air and remove 99.97% of airborne particles
    • The cabin recirculated air is exchanged every 2-3 minutes

Cleveland Clinic We're working closely with the experts at Cleveland Clinic to advise us on enhancing our cleaning and disinfection protocols for the safety of our employees and customers. Visit Cleveland Clinic's website to learn more about COVID-19.

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