What started in 2012 as a small service project has turned into a passion for Phoenix-based Employee Laurie Liss. When Laurie is not working as a Southwest Flight Attendant, she sews small patriotic travel pillows that she hands out to veterans and active military Passengers as tokens of her appreciation for their service. Since 2012, she has brought them on every flight she works, single-handedly distributing more than 7,000 pillows and accompanying thank-you notes to these heroes.
Laurie’s story perfectly illustrates Southwest’s commitment to veterans. Members of the military have always been heroes to our Southwest community. Their willingness to sacrifice in order to serve our country inspires us, as we also seek to act with a Servant’s Heart and Warrior Spirit. So we seek to provide veterans with a great place to work, honor them for their service, and partner with military-focused organizations who give back to those who have given so much to us.
A Great Place to Work
Southwest employs more than 7,700 veterans and military members and has a connection to another 1,100 military spouses. Servicemen and servicewomen often are skilled in areas like operations, logistics, mechanics, and flying, which make them a good fit for our business. And we’ve learned that many veterans enjoy being part of our Team, as military men and women often possess strong leadership skills, discipline, and the sense of teamwork that is at the Heart of Southwest. Each year, Southwest is recognized by multiple organizations as a leading veteran-friendly employer.
Each Southwest Employee who elects to self-identify as a current or former military member receives a note from our Chairman of the Board and CEO thanking them for their service and a pin that can be worn to work in recognition of their military service. Our military appreciation program provides military Employees with points that can be redeemed for items like gift cards or travel. And when our Internal Customer Care (ICC) Team learns that an Employee has been called up for active military duty, a Team Member will reach out to thank them for their service and let the Employee know that we’re thinking of them.
Southwest proudly partners with seven national military-focused nonprofit organizations. We donate tickets to Honor Flight Network, a nonprofit dedicated to honoring veterans and providing them with closure. We also support Team Rubicon with travel assistance, which allows veterans to use their skills helping communities that have been hit by natural disasters or other hardships. We provide travel support to the Warrior Initiative at the Center for BrainHealth® at The University of Texas at Dallas, which provides brain training for our servicemen and servicewomen suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury. We also contribute travel support to Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America, as they strive to build an empowered generation of veterans who provide sustainable leadership for our country and their local communities. And we give travel support to several programs that help military families, such as Folds of Honor, Knights of Heroes, and Wounded Heroes Family Adventures.
See Footnotes: 3232) Each roundtrip plane ticket is valued at $400.
Laurie has seen the positive impact of our efforts. She tells the story of a veteran named Larry Christensen who she knew through a close friend. Larry had been haunted for more than 50 years by memories of Vietnam and the friends he lost there, so Laurie encouraged him to seek closure by participating in an Honor Flight. Southwest gave Larry and other veterans tickets so they could visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, DC.
Larry’s experience at the Vietnam Memorial has brought closure to painful decades-old memories. “This experience allowed me to let go of memories I thought would never go away,” Larry says. “I was able to leave the anger, hate, and sadness at the Wall along with my flight helmet.”
For Laurie, stories like Larry’s fuel her Servant’s Heart. “Once you start connecting with veterans, you can sense the healing and the difference you can make,” she says. “Anything that has to do with veterans, I want to be part of it.”
Thanks to Southwest, I was given an opportunity to see the Wall. I was able to leave the anger, hate, and sadness there, along with my flight helmet.
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