The hangars at Delta's TechOps facility in Atlanta hosted some special visitors this week. Bays typically filled with Delta aircraft were occupied by vintage military aircraft — along with the airline's newly re-painted "Spirit of Freedom" jet.The exhibit is part of Delta's annual Veterans Day event, in which the airline honored its 10,000 employee veterans as well as the 3,000 employees who are active duty military.
Employees had the opportunity to tour military jets, including the A-10 "Warthog" and the Lockheed P-3 Orion, and see personal artifacts that their fellow veteran colleagues brought in for display, including military clothing, pictures, patches and medals.
"The armed forces community is such a big part of Delta," Delta's CEO Ed Bastian said to TechOps employees during Thursday's event. "They're a remarkably important part of what we do."Although an annual event, this year's gathering held special importance: the airline re-dedicated the "Spirit of Freedom," a Boeing 757 Delta named in honor of those who serve and have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. During the ceremony, Delta's Veterans Business Resource Group (VEN) revealed a new specialty logo emblazoned on the aircraft, which includes the emblems of the five U.S. military branches.
"Now when it pulls up at the gate, every person getting on our aircraft will see our dedication to veterans," said Kurt Robinson, vice president of VEN. "For a major airline to pull an aircraft out of service, paint it, then park it here for two days for this event, just says how much our company cares for our veterans."After the big reveal, Robinson invited the youngest and the oldest veterans in the room up for a ceremonial cake cutting with a military sword.
The two-day event was also a chance for Delta's veterans to reminisce with comrades, and for their colleagues to thank the employee veterans for protecting their freedom.
Two TechOps veterans, who between them have more than 20 years of military service and 60 years at Delta, explained how their military experiences have been invaluable as they continued their aviation careers.
"The military has people from all walks of life – it's a melting pot of people," said Steven Manda, an aviation maintenance technician who spent nearly a decade in the U.S. Navy. "Just one of the great benefits of it is that it brings everyone together, no matter who you are, and everyone has each other's back."
Tom Hollaway, also an AMT, added that the skills he learned during his 10 year-stint in the U.S. Air Force is just what landed him a job at Delta.
"When I was hired, they picked me and two other guys out of a group of more than 100 mechanics," he said. "I asked 'Why me?' and the manager said 'We've got a high regard for veterans.' That moment really made an impression on me and has stayed with me all these years."