Partnering with others
Photo: Marc Selinger/Boeing
Boeing honors past and present heroes
Much has changed for the men and women who wear the uniforms of the U.S. armed forces in the years since World War II. However, one thing has stayed the same during the intervening decades — the admiration and support Boeing and its employees show for our homegrown heroes and their families, both in and out of uniform.
This past summer, Boeing employee volunteers helped 99 World War II veterans from the Tennessee Valley fly to the U.S. capital to see for the first time the National World War II Memorial. The memorial was completed six years ago to honor the 16 million men and women who served in the U.S. armed forces during the biggest military conflict in history.
“When I set out to launch this organization, Boeing was the only defense contractor, out of 18 companies, that listened to me, believed in me and offered support.”
—Deb Kloeppel, a Navy spouse who founded the Military Spouse Corporate Career Network (MSCCN).
The veterans received a hero's welcome when they arrived at Reagan National Airport: hundreds of people, most of them strangers, greeted them with applause, handshakes, hugs and kisses. A six-piece band belted out stirring songs, and small children held up signs declaring, "Thank you for your service" and "You are our heroes" as the group made its way to the chartered buses to take them to the memorial.
"Next to Alabama football, this is one of the greatest things I've ever seen," said Arthur Alvin Jones Jr. of Decatur, Ala., standing in the vast plaza of the World War II Memorial, a mix of bronze, granite and waterworks on a 7.4-acre site on the National Mall. Jones was a B-17 and B-24 bomber navigator during the war.
The trip was organized and funded by the Tennessee Valley chapter of Honor Flight, a national nonprofit group that flies veterans to Washington, D.C., for a one-day tour of the monuments with the help of hundreds of volunteers, many of them Boeing employees. Some of the volunteers served as escorts or "guardians" for the veterans, in their 80s and 90s, and provided a sympathetic ear as they recalled their wartime experiences.
"We wouldn't be able to execute this program safely without volunteers," said Joe Fitzgerald, president of Honor Flight Tennessee Valley. "Volunteers are necessary on many levels, but safety is first, second and third priority for us."
With over 90 chapters in 45 states, Honor Flight has transported tens of thousands of World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War veterans to Washington, D.C., for free to see their respective memorials. "But the urgency is greatest for the World War II veterans — of the 16 million who served in the U.S. armed forces during the war, less than two million are still alive, and 1,000 to 1,200 die each day," Fitzgerald said. "Most of the living are too frail to travel to Washington."
Photo: Randy Jackson/Boeing
Since 2008, Boeing has provided nearly 400 employees and guests as Honor Flight guardians. "Our Boeing employees are so proud to support such an important and worthwhile cause," said Kim Kierstead, who coordinates Boeing's involvement in Honor Flight activities. "Some of our volunteers have supported up to eight flights in the past couple of years, and are always so honored to be part of something so important."
Help for today's warfighters
Boeing's support for servicemen and women and their families also extends to those now serving their country in Iraq and Afghanistan.
When Paula Heine's husband, Simone, left for Iraq as a member of the U.S. Army, she became a single parent to her four young children and feared she might never see her husband again. During her husband's third tour of duty, Heine received the news she'd dreaded. Simone had been injured and was being sent home for treatment.
Not only concerned about her husband's condition but fearful of being unable to support her family, Heine discovered the Military Spouse Corporate Career Network. The MSCCN, a nonprofit organization supported by Boeing, helps military spouses, war wounded and caregivers of war wounded find jobs that provide the flexibility military families need. Heine credits the MSCCN for helping her find employment and playing a key role in saving her family.
According to Deb Kloeppel, a Navy spouse who founded the MSCCN in 2004, Boeing was a charter sponsor of the MSCCN and the first defense company to help the group execute its mission.
Norm Bartlett, vice president of Leadership Talent Management — Organization Effectiveness and MSCCN board member, emphasized that the company's support of the MSCCN is one of many ways Boeing supports military personnel and their families. "MSCCN is truly making a difference," he said. Click here to view a KMOV-TV, St. Louis interview with Bartlett about the organization and Boeing’s support.
"When I set out to launch this organization, Boeing was the only defense contractor, out of 18 companies, that listened to me, believed in me and offered support," Kloeppel said. "Others who allowed me to present interrupted when they learned our mission was about the spouse and not just the warfighter. A lot of folks are grateful for the initial commitment."
Count Paula Heine and her family among those grateful people. Suffering from severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that left him unable to leave his home, Simone Heine received a medical discharge. Paula Heine said that she and her husband had always been strong for one another, but now she'd have to be strong for both of them.
Heine, who had uploaded her resume to the MSCCN Web site, said she was surprised when the organization called with an opportunity for work as a virtual administrative assistant. "I wasn't earning much, but getting to work from home meant I could provide care for my husband and kids, while developing new skills and proving myself. The MSCCN gave me the ability to get back on my feet," she said.
Kloeppel says her organization is the only nonprofit, joint-military resource dedicated to finding job placements for military spouses as well as military widows/widowers, war wounded veterans and caregivers of war wounded. The MSCCN also helps individuals develop coping and job skills to make them more confident and marketable.
"We enable military families, particularly those that depend on dual incomes, to move from location to location," Kloeppel said. "Not only do we make it possible for families to stay together, but we help in military readiness."
"Boeing's recruitment of military veterans and its veteran-friendly policies and culture have received national recognition from such media outlets as Military Times EDGE, a supplement to the Air Force Times, Navy Times, Marine Corps Times and Army Times. Boeing was the highest-ranked aerospace company in the "Best for Vets: Employers survey" that ran in that publication earlier this year and was the only aerospace company in the survey’s top 50.
"Our focus on integrity, ethics and performance aligns well with the high standards of the U.S. Armed Forces," said Rick Stephens, senior vice president of Human Resources and Administration, a former U.S. Marine Corps officer. "Veterans at all levels bring leadership skills that are as valuable as the technical knowledge they offer us."