“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
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