WABE News
6:41 pm
Fri November 9, 2012

Delta Dedicates "Spirit of Freedom" in Honor of U.S. Service Members

Delta Air Lines Friday said "thank you" in a big way to its 10,000 employees who currently serve, or have served, in the U.S. Armed Forces. 

Credit Jim Burress / WABE News

Governor Nathan Deal was one of a host of dignitaries on hand.  Deal thanked employees both for their military service and for their commitment to soldiers traveling in their care.

“I know the many things that you do, both at the airports, on the aircraft, and a variety of other ways," Deal said.  "And I just want to let you know that I am very appreciative of that.”

When Delta Air Lines’ CEO Richard Anderson took the podium, he said he felt "inadequate" in expressing his appreciation to the company's military men and women. 

So he let one of Delta’s planes do the talking.  

Just to his left, a large white sheet dropped from the nose of a towering Boeing 757.  Delta christened ship N694DL "The Spirit of Freedom."

Delta has pledged to hire more veterans by 2020, although specific numbers were not made available.

Credit Jim Burress / WABE News

Anderson said hiring those with military experience is not only the right thing to do, but it also benefits the airline.

“So when you take the skills they learn [in the military], plus the work habits they learn, and the commitments they learn, it’s perfect for hiring veterans,” he said.

And others have taken note.

In July, Delta was honored with the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award.  That’s the highest honor the U.S. Government gives to companies for their backing of guard and reserve employees. 

Atlanta-based 737 first officer Tom Timberlake nominated Delta for the award. He said he spent years doing what he calls “dual headed” duty--working his regular pilot job while also serving in the Air Force Reserves. 

It’s a situation he says was not only tough on him, but also tested his co-workers.

“My fellow employees at Delta have appeased that challenge to a great degree," Timberlake said .  "So it makes [the situation] a little bit easier, and often times, enjoyable.”

Credit Jim Burress / WABE News

Delta is the first airline in a decade to win the honor.  Atlanta-based UPS subsidiary UPS Airlines won the honor in 2002.