Wanderlust experience in Scotland
Each week we will profile one of our employee's adventures across the globe, featuring a new location for every employee's story. Follow along every week to learn more about their travel experiences.
By SFO Maintenance Planning Analyst Hannah Rebosura
I've often come across the travel quote in the internet that says, "It is better to see something once, than to hear about it a thousand times." And for the past 10 years or so, I have traveled the world, with 25 countries checked off my bucket list, yet Scotland still remained the elusive one. However, last October I had the wonderful privilege of flying off to Edinburgh, Scotland.
Pronounced, "Eiden-brah," Edinburgh is known as "Athens of the North," as well as Scotland's capital, of course. It's Old and New Towns were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995, and in 2009 it was voted the most desirable place to live in the U.K. Also known as the Aud Reekie, in Scottish Gaelic, Edinburgh is combined with both ancient and modern unique Scottish atmosphere. Its medieval palaces rub elbows with the modern architecture. Its gothic churches are as ancient and magnificent as the Edinburgh Castle itself.
Strolling down the elegant Royal Mile in the Old Town is definitely a must. It boasts the highest number of traditional souvenir shops. There you will find the "made in Scotland" garments from the popular cashmere and lamb's wool scarves to the traditional, yet very famous Scottish wear: the kilt. They come in every tartan pattern known, but they aren't cheap either.
The Royal Mile is book-ended by the Edinburgh Castle and the Palace of the Holyrood House. The Holyrood House is the official residence of the British Monarch in Scotland, Queen Elizabeth II. Edinburgh is also home to several interesting museums and historical sites which include St. Giles' Cathedral, the place of worship of the Church of Scotland and it is also known as the "Mother Church of Presbyterianism." The cathedral is also dedicated to the city's patron St. Giles and the building right next to it is the Scottish Parliament. The Royal Mile's old cobbled-stone roads and the ever-iconic red telephone booth make the best scenic backdrop for every picture you take.
Then of course there is the Scotch Whisky Experience for all the whisky lovers and enthusiasts. For those of you that are unaware, Scotland is the biggest exporter of whisky. All the best Scotch Whisky comes from Scotland. The Scotch Whisky Experience offers whisky-making tours and tastings. The tasting was a lot of fun and I learned that the older the whisky, the stronger it is and the better it tastes, especially on a cold and gloomy day. It makes your day far more delightful and warm too.
Then we were off to the castle, Edinburgh Castle, that is. The Castle is better known as the symbol of the city and home to the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, an annual event featuring music, dance and more. The royal fortress is situated in one of the highest points of the city, and has been continuously in use for the past one thousand years but still remains in excellent condition. The castle is also home to the Mons Meg Cannon, an enormous medieval super gun, or cannon, that was built in 1449. The cannon fires huge, solid stone cannonballs, three times the size of a human head. Each cannonball weighs about 400 pounds and can shoot as far as two miles. Every day at 1:00 p.m. there is a ritual called the "One O'Clock Gun," or the firing of the cannon from the castle. The Scottish tradition began in 1861, when the firing was a signal for ships that sailed in and out.
The name "cannon," or "canon," is very common throughout Edinburgh. It somehow has a significant meaning. Beyond the crossroads, the Royal Mile continues down the Canongate, literally meaning, "Cannon's/Canon's Way." It was used in former times by the Augustinian Canons of Holyrood Abbey. The name or the word "cannon," is not just a weapon of destruction, but it is also a religious order in the Catholic and Anglican Church, and of course the Church of Scotland. From the award-winning Cannonball Restaurant and Bar, to the Canongate, all the way to the Canonmills and finally to the Old Cannon Kirk (Church) and Cross, the word "cannon," surrounds this marvelous Scottish city. Canongate was once described as, "the main avenue from the palace to the city, it has been born upon its pavements the burden of all that was beautiful, all that was gallant, all that has historically interesting in Scotland for the last six or seven hundred years."
Throughout my one-week stay in Edinburgh, I was able to go up to the Scottish Highlands in Loch Ness (famous for its mythical Loch Ness Monster) and Inverness. The Loch Ness is best known for the alleged sightings of the crypto-zoological Loch Ness Monster, also known affectionately as "Nessie." The monster is an equivalent to our "Big Foot," or "Sasquatch." The "Nessie" was first sighted by an American couple on the road in 1933 where it approached their car and eventually ran away but it has been a mystical character in stories for hundreds of years. Eventually, Loch Ness became a tourist attraction in all of Scotland. The Urquhart Castle is also situated in Loch Ness. It is one of the oldest castles in Scotland, and definitely one with the most spectacular views of the Highlands and the lake.
Being surrounded by the majestic mountains of the Highlands in Inverness, felt so surreal. I felt like I was in a scene of "The Game of Thrones," and as a matter of fact, the show shot several scenes from their "Winterfell" episode in Season One in the Highlands. Even though it was cold and damp, the Scottish Highlands was one of the most beautiful places I've seen in my life, and that was a great check off my bucket list.
"Fill your life with adventures, not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show" is one of my most favorite travel quotes. Scotland truly has so much to offer. From getting lost in the Scottish Highlands, to my search for the Loch Ness Monster in Loch Ness, and falling in love with the Canongate, or Cannon's Way, while enjoying the sounds of the original bagpipe music, to striking a pose at the iconic Red Telephone Booth at the Royal Mile, and finally the Edinburgh Castle -- Scotland, you truly are one of a kind and most definitely brought out the wanderlust in me.
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.