Each year, November 11 is set aside to celebrate veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces, but at United, we thank our veterans every day.
As one of the biggest U.S. airlines, United employs thousands of veterans and reservists, and our internal business resource group United4Veterans (U4V) leverages company resources to support diversity and inclusion efforts that help us recruit, develop, and retain qualified veterans. With the company’s support, U4V also identifies opportunities to connect and support veteran initiatives around the country.
Richard Jones, United’s Manager of Business Diversity and U4V’s President, helps these initiatives come to life. Jones, who has a background in supply chain management, commissioned into the military in December 2011, and when he was honorably discharged, he knew he wanted to continue looking out for his fellow veterans, including his father. He joined the U4V board to help veterans coming into the company, as well as to help veterans make their dreams come true.
“The Anthem Jerky that you are able to purchase on flights was one of my projects,” he says. “That is a veteran-owned business. We were able to get them certified.”
One of U4V’s main focuses is recruitment. As a company, United is committed to recruiting veterans and reservists, as they bring a standard of professionalism and discipline to our culture. U4V is constantly making connections between veteran organizations so that the company can bring in highly skilled employees to work in a variety of departments across its business. Once veterans are hired, U4V supports the transition that our service members go through in order to kick-start their careers at a civilian company.
Another initiative that complements recruitment is U4V’s Buddy Program, which pairs a new veteran employee w it h a veteran employee who has more experience at United. The two meet regularly to build a support system, as the new-hire navigates their new role.
“U4V is continuing to build a better rapport with our veterans to ensure they have the proper resources to navigate through the company or get help with VA benefits,” says Orlando Fernandez, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who serves as the Public Relations and Communications Chair for the Houston U4V chapter. “We are a very military-friendly company and have veterans from every branch of service that served in different campaigns. Whatever role you choose at United, the brotherhood/sisterhood from the veteran community is great, so the transition will be welcoming.”
In addition to helping newcomers, United emphasizes giving back to our communities. U4V members volunteer year-round, mainly for organizations that support our veterans. Our hub chapters are on the ground, spending time in their communities, donating wheelchairs to local disabled veterans, riding in cycling races to raise funds for veteran organizations, collecting winter apparel for those in need, and more. United also has major partnerships with the USO and Fischer House through the company’s Global Community Engagement team.
Veterans who join the company can also look to U4V to aid in their professional development. The group plans programs throughout the year to help employees learn from external and internal veteran leaders. In the past, leaders such as the U.S. Secretary of Veteran Affairs, admirals, and retired generals have spent time with veteran employees, giving valuable advice on teamwork and overcoming adversity.
Jeremy Schaad, a United Airbus 320 First Officer based in Denver who is also closing in on 25 years of service in the Wyoming Air National Guard, says he’s grateful to be working for United, and he offers some advice for fellow employees: “Never forget how you got to where you are. Operating aircraft to achieve a mission, whether military or civilian, is a dream job for so many. Life is all about relationships, so spend more time on those than on your career, and remember to acknowledge and thank those who helped you along the way.”
If you find yourself traveling through one of United’s hubs, make sure to check out our veteran honor walls, which highlight veteran employees and their stories. And to all veterans, this month and every month, thank you for your service.