A message from Oscar on Veteran's Day
“Attention, we now invite uniformed military members to pre-board."
Each time I hear a United boarding agent announce these words across the gate lounge, I raise my eyes from my screen or magazine to see who might be stepping forward in response to that call. I notice other passengers doing so as well. We look up with a mixture of awe and pride, a shared sense of respect for the individuals who wear the uniform and the principles it represents, and we are reminded once again that what divides us is far outweighed by all that unites us.
The young men and women who make their way to the gate represent every background and ethnicity of our country. Some of them look impossibly young; all of them are unfailingly polite and courteous. They answer that boarding call, because when a far more profound call was made—a call to serve and sacrifice—they stepped forward to answer that one as well.
When I see them boarding our United planes, I hope they are returning home to their families. If not, I pray for them that they will be safe wherever their mission takes them. Whichever direction they are headed, I pray for them all the same, as I'm sure we all do, each in our own way.
Each day, United helps hundreds of American military personnel reach their destinations around the globe in service of our nation, and everyone in the United family takes immense pride in the small role we play in assisting our service members, especially in our capacity as the only U.S. carrier to be an official sponsor of the USO, Inc.
Many of us personally know families that will have an empty seat at the table this Thanksgiving as a loved one serves far from home. And too many military families will keep an empty place at the dinner table forever reserved for someone who gave what Lincoln called “the last full measure of devotion" for our country, and for us. So, as we celebrate the holiday season and give thanks for our many blessings, I hope you will extend your own thanks to our active military personnel and veterans as you meet them during your travel with us. Such simple acts of thanksgiving go a long way to every person who has worn the uniform. Few times in our history have we ever asked so much, for so long, from so few Americans as we do now.
Yet, even such words of gratitude—important though they are—fall short of our obligations to our veterans when they return home. More than just showing respect for their service, we ought to recognize the skills they've earned while serving abroad by hiring them when they come back home. Unfortunately, in addition to healing from scars both seen and unseen, too many of our veterans continue to struggle in the job market, and private sector companies still overlook their incredible qualifications because their résumés and backgrounds don't always fit the typical mold.
At United, we make it a priority to hire service women and men from all branches of the military, and, like other companies in our industry, we hire hundreds of outstanding veterans every year.
We do so not only because we take seriously the obligations we have to veterans—though we do—but because they have skillsets that simply can't be found anywhere else. From pilots to mechanics, customer service and ramp agents to logistics experts, our veterans have proven experience performing every role that exists in a major airline, and doing so under the most difficult conditions. Moreover, they have acquired the habits of leadership and a commitment to excellence that are the hallmark of those who wear the uniform.
As you fly with us, I hope you remember that the quality of our service is thanks in large measure to the unique and unmatched skills of thousands of veterans who honor us by being members of the United family. If you happen to be looking to hire a new position in the near future, I encourage you to seek out candidates who have served. In addition to offering them your thanks, also offer them a job. I speak from experience when I say you'll be glad you did.
The next time a United ticket agent calls for military personnel to step forward, I hope you'll take a moment to look up and see the next smart hire for your company, and the best business decision you can make.That's what it means to express thankfulness to our brave men and women in uniform.
Oscar Munoz - CEO, United Airlines
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.