This year’s annual American Airlines Sky Ball—a fundraiser for military heroes and families—raised $2.4 million for the Airpower Foundation. The event was held earlier this month at an AA aircraft hangar at DFW International Airport.
The three-day event included a ceremony honoring Medal of Honor recipients attended by 17 of the 70 living recipients of the honor, a veteran-focused career fair, educational outreach programs for area schools, a Salute to Heroes concert featuring Austin Allsup and Stoney LaRue, and a special performance by Martina McBride.
The room was filled with amazing people, airplanes, and military. Plus, “1,000 American Airlines volunteers that come together to make it happen,” Chris Singley, managing director of Community Relations & Employee Engagement said in an American Airlines tribute video. Singley, who has been involved for more than 16 years, says it’s one the most important events that the company does every year.
Singley added that having 17 out of 70 living Medal of Honor recipients attend the ceremony was a “testament to how deeply they care about this event.” Among those attending was Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Patrick Brady, who recited the Oath of Enlistment to 20 new recruits.
Two American Airlines employees received Citizen Hero Awards from the Airpower Foundation during the event: Patty Herdlicka, from the American Airlines Federal Credit Union marketing department, and George Galloway, a Fleet Services Clerk Crew Chief at O’Hare International Airport (ORD). The two were recognized for dedication to community service and commitment to volunteering and have already combined to volunteer more than 1,500 hours in 2019.
Supporting the military is part of American Airlines’ “fabric” and “DNA” said David Seymour, senior VP of Integrated Operations, pointing out the airline has more than 7,000 employees currently serving or having served in the armed forces. “They expect us to show up in communities that are in need and be there to support them,” he said.
“This is an incredible opportunity for us to be with so many people who not only serve but who understand the price of service—who appreciate freedom,” Taya Kyle, widow of US Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, said. “We have to have people who care enough about our military and our country enough to look at not only the person in uniform. But the person behind the uniform and say that that matters.”
The Airpower Foundation was formed by the Fort Worth Airpower Council. The yearly Sky Ball allows the organization to exclusively fund projects that directly support the members and families of all branches of the military, veterans and wounded, ill, or injured service members and their families.
Groups benefiting from Airpower Foundation contributions include the Adaptive Training Foundation, USO, Chris Kyle Frog Foundation, Armed Services YMCA, Robert Irvine Foundation and others. The yearly fundraising event allows the group to purchase mobility devices, fund scholarships, support Gold Star families and contribute to more life-changing programs, Sid Eppes, chairman of the Airpower Foundation, said.
The direct donations and sponsorships go toward a wide range of needs, such as supporting children of fallen military heroes, funding projects like helping amputee and burn survivors transition to civilian life, providing advanced technology “smart” homes to severely wounded service members, and sponsoring kayak fishing expeditions for physically and emotionally challenged veterans.
Part of the Sky Ball festivities included 100 Veterans Who Give a Damn, a group of veterans and their families that obligate themselves to a $100 donation followed by a vote for a charity to receive the collected donation. Per Col. (Ret.) Jay Pellicone, U.S.M.C. of 100 Veterans Who Give a Damn, over the last couple of years the group has raised over $100,000.
“Just the idea of having Taps and all these people come here to support those that have served, those that have been lost. It brings a tear to your eye. It’s everything that is great about our country and our company,” said Col. (Ret.) Jay Pellicone, U.S.M.C., 100 Vets Who Give a Damn.
Check out scenes from this year’s event.
All photos courtesy of an American Airlines video.
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