Today is Memorial Day in the USA, a day to honor members of the armed forces who died in service to nation.
There are so many stories, so many nuances, and so many opportunities to reflect upon war, sacrifice, and determination. United CEO Oscar Munoz shares one such story in his 2018 Memorial Day message to employees. Here’s his full letter:
In addition to working hard during this busy holiday to serve our customers and support each other, as United employees, we are privileged to have a unique and powerful platform to help people honor all those who have given their lives in service to the United States and the cause of freedom.
A valued customer, Skip Greeby, recently wrote to me, praising one of our colleagues for going above and beyond to help him do exactly that.
Ten years ago, Skip founded the Scions of the 17th Airborne Division, a group that honors the soldiers who served in the 17th Airborne during World War II, by helping surviving veterans retrace their paths through the battlefields of Europe while paying tribute to their fallen comrades who never made it home.
Most of the veterans who embark on this trip are now in their mid-90s, and it has become increasingly difficult for them to make such a long and complicated journey. Thankfully, United’s Pat Roumanos, a Customer Resolution Manager in Chicago, has taken it upon herself to help these extraordinary men and their travel companions get to where they’re going – from helping secure upgraded seats to arranging for wheelchairs and expedited service through the airports.
“If it weren’t for Pat, we would never have been able to do this,” Skip said. “Without her, we would never be able to provide this kind of recognition for these men and the upgrades and special treatment they receive from door to door. Pat goes more than the extra mile.”
Of course, this is not just a matter of professionalism for Pat; it’s also personal. Her father was a proud WWII Navy veteran, and Pat sees this as a way to honor his service, and the service of all the men and women who fought so valiantly for this country, particularly those who made the ultimate sacrifice on the battlefield.
Over the next few days, I hope we can each find a meaningful way of connecting the service we provide to our sense of indebtedness to all those who serve and sacrifice, as Pat did.
I know many of our colleagues have sons and daughters, husbands and wives, friends and relatives who’ve lost their lives in uniform, and I know all of us will make a special effort to consider and care for these colleagues over the next few days as they remember their loved ones this Memorial Day weekend.
I commend Pat Roumanos for doing her part to honor the heroes she has had the chance to interact with.
The World War II generation is fading fast. I remember meeting one of the last three living World War I veteran, Frank Buckles, at Arlington National Cemetery in 2007. All WWI veterans are now dead (Buckles outlived the other two, but died in 2011). It won’t be too many years until all WWII veterans have also passed on.
Mass travel and the opportunities it brings heightens the chances for peace. Being able to re-visit, and perhaps grapple with for the first time, historic battlegrounds is not only therapeutic, but sobering. In this era, a great dose of sobriety is needed more than ever. I’m pleased that airlines like United are making that easier for those who lived to tell about the horrors of war.
Let us give back to those who served us and let us never forget the sacrifice of so many drafted into service who never came home.