A couple weeks ago Pat Finn at Cisco sent a number of us at World Wide a note ago regarding Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving. In the email, Pat gave his well wishes to his team and partners and expressed the gratitude he felt for America’s Veterans. Pat also passed along a couple of emails he had received that reflected the generosity and gratitude that many Americans feel towards our service men and women.
I include those emails below and have my own story to pass along…
A week ago, while I was on the last leg of my business trip, I spotted a soldier sitting across from me in the DFW terminal. I was fortunate to get an upgrade and was flying Business Class for the hour or so flight from Dallas to Memphis. I remembered the email from Pat and thought I’d give my seat to this young serviceman. I walked to the ticket counter and the friendly (yes–friendly!) attendant helped with coordinating the exchange. I wanted to remain anonymous so she approached the young soldier to make the exchange. It turned out that he wasn’t going to Memphis after all but to Las Vegas instead.
We’ll, I tried, I thought.
So I boarded the plane and slipped into my comfortable seat in Business Class waiting for takeoff. As I was chatting with the passenger next to meet, a woman in a bright orange vest from the ground crew came up to me with copies of two boarding tickets and handed them to me. She told me that there were actually two soldiers back in coach but there now wasn’t enough time left to make the switch nor would one come up without the other. She said, “Thought you wanted to know…maybe you could buy them a drink!” Good idea, I thought, but an older gentleman and his wife across the aisle overheard us talking and the gentleman quickly pulled the attendant aside and said, “Please, let me take care of anything those soldiers want back there…it’s on me!”
He beat me to it!
So, I gave it some thought and began to empty an envelope that I had been using to store business receipts. I wrote a brief note that thanked them for their service and told them that they and all service men and women are in my thoughts and prayers. I included a 20 dollar bill and wrote to tell them to have a drink on me when they landed. I addressed the envelope to “Brandon / Seat 24-F & Andre / Seat 18-F” and handed it to the attendant.
Well, the flight went on without a hitch and as taxied after landing the attendant came on the overhead and announced the very special presence of the two service men. The announcement was met with a very resounding round of applause. That’s always great when they do that!
Thanks, American Airlines!
And thanks, Pat, for passing along your note and stories, which I include below. They’re much more interesting than my simple gesture but I’m reminded of a favorite quote from Mother Theresa: “God does not call us to do great things but to do small things with great love.”
My thanksgiving wish is for everyone to pass along our “thanks,” in ways great and small, to all of our veterans and service men and women!
Here’s an excerpt from Pat’s email. (Pat is VP of Fed Sales at Cisco.)
Thank you Michael Guilday, Gerard McNulty and Pat Ryan (I really hope you don’t mind me sharing.) I would like to wish the team that puts their “customer before themselves” everyday a very Happy and Blessed Veterans and Thanksgiving. Thank you all who have served and who are serving. Let’s remember all those who gave the greatest sacrifice to defend our freedom. Enjoy, BE WELL and BE SAFE.
“Last year I was scheduled to fly to San Juan Puerto Rico on an early morning flight. I was lucky and was upgraded to first class on the Delta flight. San Juan from Atlanta is a 3 hour + flight so I was looking forward to having breakfast, coffee, juice, all the amenities that go with first class. As I stood waiting for my flight I noted a lone soldier waiting for the same flight. I had made a decision a couple months earlier that if I were upgraded on any flights and there was a soldier on the same flight, I was going to give up my seat to him or her. This was the first real test!
I went up to the gate attendant and asked that she take my first class seat and give it to the soldier and give me a seat back in coach. She wanted to make a big deal out of it but I insisted that the soldier not know who had given him the seat.
We boarded the plane and I took my seat in the back. A flight attendant came down the aisle and found the Army soldier that I have given the seat to and told him to follow her to first class. By now, there were about six other Army guys sitting in the back with the soldier I upgrade and me. I could tell that the soldier I had given my seat up to was a little nervous about leaving his buddies but finally headed towards the front of the cabin to first class. About 5 minutes later the same flight attendant came back gathered up the other five soldiers and head to first class. A couple minutes later the five other passengers that had also given up their seats came down the aisle with their luggage and took the seats around me. When the one soldier came forward to first class five other good Americans also gave their seats to the other five guys. I was pretty impressed with my fellow travelers.”
I put my carry-on in the luggage compartment and sat down in my Assigned seat. It was going to be a long flight.. ‘I’m glad I have a good Book to read Perhaps I will get a short nap,’ I thought.
Just before take-off, a line of soldiers came down the aisle and filled all the vacant seats, totally surrounding me. I decided to start a conversation ‘Where are you headed?’ I asked the soldier seated nearest to me. ‘Petawawa. We’ll be there for two weeks for special training, and then we’re being deployed to Afghanistan
After flying for about an hour, an announcement was made that sack lunches were available for five dollars. It would be several hours before we reached the east, and I quickly decided a lunch would help pass the time.. As I reached for my wallet, I overheard soldier ask his buddy if he planned to buy lunch. ‘No, that seems like a lot of money for just a sack lunch. Probably wouldn’t be worth five bucks. I’ll wait till we get to base ‘ His friend agreed.
I looked around at the other soldiers. None were buying lunch. I walked to the back of the plane and handed the flight attendant a fifty dollar bill. ‘Take a lunch to all those soldiers.’ She grabbed
my arms and squeezed tightly. Her eyes wet with tears, she thanked me. ‘My son was a soldier in Iraq ; it’s almost like you are doing it for him.’
Picking up ten sacks, she headed up the aisle to where the soldiers were seated. She stopped at my seat and asked, ‘Which do you like best – beef or chicken?’ ‘Chicken,’ I replied, wondering why she asked. She turned and went to the front of plane, returning a minute later with a dinner plate from first class. This is your thanks.’
After we finished eating, I went again to the back of the plane, heading for the rest room. A man stopped me. ‘I saw what you did. I want to be part of it. Here, take this.’ He handed me twenty-five dollars.
Soon after I returned to my seat, I saw the Flight Captain coming down the aisle, looking at the aisle numbers as he walked, I hoped he was not looking for me, but noticed he was looking at the numbers only on my side of the plane. When he got to my row he stopped, smiled, held out his hand, and said, ‘I want to shake your hand..’ Quickly unfastening my seatbelt I stood and took the Captain’s hand. With a booming voice he said, ‘I was a soldier and I was a military pilot. Once, someone bought me a lunch. It was an act of kindness I never forgot.’ I was embarrassed when applause was heard from all of the passengers.
Later I walked to the front of the plane so I could stretch my legs. A man who was seated about six rows in front of me reached out his hand, wanting to shake mine. He left another twenty-five dollars in my palm.
When we landed I gathered my belongings and started to deplane.. Waiting just inside the airplane door was a man who stopped me, put something in my shirt pocket, turned, and walked away without saying a word. Another twenty-five dollars!
Upon entering the terminal, I saw the soldiers gathering for their trip to the base. I walked over to them and handed them seventy-five dollars. ‘It will take you some time to reach the base. It will be about time for a sandwich. God Bless You.’
Ten young men left that flight feeling the love and respect of their fellow travelers. As I walked briskly to my car, I whispered a prayer for their safe return. These soldiers were giving their all for our country. I could only give them a couple of meals.
It seemed so little…..
A veteran is someone who, at one point in his life, wrote a blank check made payable to ‘The United States of America ‘ for an amount of ‘up to and including my life.’ That is Honor, and there are way too many people in this country who no longer understand it.’