The Yacht Week - sailing the Adriatic Sea
Each week we profile one of our employee's adventures across the globe, featuring a new location. Follow along every week to learn more about their travel experiences.
By Health and Welfare Compliance Manager Kristin Komar
In the spring of 2017 I booked what was sure to be a life changing week- The Yacht Week. I had a friend who had completed the journey, and raved about how amazing it was. The Yacht Week launched almost 10 years ago, with Croatia as the original route, but in the recent years has grown in popularity. The company (based in London) now organizes an entire summer (and even winter break) of yachting adventures across seven worldwide destinations. Croatia, the original route, is still the most popular, but some of the other locations (Greece, Thailand, British Virgin Islands) are quickly gaining attention. Since it was our first time, and we had heard the most about it, we went for the Croatia route.
Each week of summer (for about 15 weeks in a row), as well as through the holidays, The Yacht Week charters boats and crew across all their destinations to sail for seven days, immersing it's attendees in the local culture, and forming bonds with people from around the world. I have to say, I was shockingly impressed with the origination of Yacht Week. Each day/night had organized events to connect all the attendees with each other and the island that we were on. The skippers (captains) and the hostesses (there to cook and clean the boats) quickly became our "parents" and led us through this journey of a lifetime. Yacht Week was a chance to unwind, de-stress, and put worries behind me, as I sailed from island to island indulging in the local Croatian culture, floating on inflatable floaties in the Adriatic Sea, and consuming copious amounts of fresh Mediterranean foods. It was promised to be the best week of my life -- and it was.
When it came time for this journey to begin, I flew from O'Hare International Airport to Newark Liberty International Airport, and took a direct flight from there to Munich. After landing in Munich (and eating some sausage in a beer garden), we hopped a plane to Split, Croatia, where we spent 2 days catching up on sleep and drinking local wines. When sail day came, we traveled to our marina, met our crew, stocked our boat with food and drink alongside our boat mates, unpacked our inflatable rafts and bathing suits, setting sail on a Saturday evening. I traveled with three of my close girlfriends, and the rest of our boat was filled with people from around the world- two guys from Brazil, two guys from Australia, and our hostess and skipper (a couple from South Africa). People made jokes about how close you got to your boat mates, but I had no idea that these strangers would soon become family.
Our itinerary was quite simple, and unbelievably relaxing. Our day times were filled with exploring the Adriatic Sea. Some days we would just sail off on our own away from the other boats and float in the water. Other days, we would tie up with all the other Yacht Week boats in what is famously referred to as "the circle raft" or the "tunnel raft." Essentially all boats tied together in formations where you float around from boat to boat getting to know the other yacht weekers. We also spent some days exploring the Croatian landscape. Off the island of Vis we explored the blue and green caves, and cliff jumped. In total we visited five Croatian Islands- Trogir, Vis, Komiza, Palmizana and Hvar. On the final day, all of the boats sailed from the most southern island, Hvar, north to our origin, Split, in what is referred to as The Regatta Race.
Afternoons and evenings were spent on the various islands at chartered Yacht Week themed events. These events ranged from tropical themed to Riviera themed, and gave you a chance to unwind with your boat mates, sipping Mediterranean themed drinks and dancing in the sunset. After afternoon events, we would branch off as a boat and go get some local Croatian cuisine for dinner. Food ranged from coal oven roasted pizzas to the freshest Mediterranean seafood, caught dockside that morning.
Nighttime was spent one of two ways. We either had a Yacht Week themed event to attend (one night there was a neon themed soiree on the beach on the island of Komiza), or a chance to lay on the front of your boat and stare up at the stars. The stars were unlike anything I have ever seen in my life. You could see every single star in our galaxy, and the experience was one of the most humbling moments of my life.
By the time Yacht Week came to an end, I couldn't believe how much I had grown. I got the chance to immerse myself in not only the local Croatian culture, but in the world itself. Being surrounded by hundreds of like minded individuals from around the world, hearing the way their cultures experience the same things we do as Americans, was eye-opening. I tried foods that I wouldn't look twice at in Chicago. I put the stress of my daily life behind me, and for a moment, felt how enormous this world we live in truly is.
The Yacht Week gave me the time I needed to take a step back, to re-center myself in this crazy world, and to remember how fortunate we are to work for a company like United, which fully supports taking journeys far beyond our backyards. I have always been a free spirit, and a spontaneous person, but going on Yacht Week changed me for the better. When life gets crazy and stressful, I will always have my memories of The Yacht Week to bring me center again. Until our next journey together, I will always remember my new family in that Croatian sunset lighting, eating pizza in the streets of Hvar, forgetting the worries of our real lives, and dancing under those magnificent stars.
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.