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American Airlines Sky Ball XVI

Another outstanding Sky Ball weekend has come and gone. It all began Thursday night with the Return to Freedom Gala, which celebrated the 45th anniversary of Operation Homecoming and the release of Vietnam prisoners of war, some of who had been held captive up to 8 years. General David L. Goldfein, Chief of Staff for the U.S. Air Force, served as the keynote speaker for the evening and H. Ross Perot Sr. received a special gift from the former POWs in appreciation for his effort to raise awareness of their plight.

Friday morning began with educational outreach visits to local schools by a few of the former POWs and recipients of the Medal of Honor, our nation’s highest award for valor in combat. These heroes visited six local schools with the mission of telling their stories and teaching about some of the character traits that make great citizens, such as Service, Sacrifice, and Commitment. Also during the day, we had over 2,500 high school students visit DWH (Hangar #5) to view several static displays during our STEM-focused Aviation Expo.

Friday night’s Salute to Heroes event was a free concert/dinner for the military and law enforcement communities, and also for those who volunteer their time for Sky Ball. Chef Robert Irvine led the effort to feed 4,000 guests while Pat Green headlined the evening that included several other country music performers. Three cars, donated by Caliber Collision, were given to deserving military/law enforcement families, and a great Disney trip, donated by the American Airlines Credit Union, was presented to a very surprised family.

Saturday’s brunch was a more solemn occasion as the American Fallen Soldiers Portrait Project presented a special gift to the family of U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Alex Viola, who was KIA in Afghanistan in 2013. American, through our Military and Veterans Initiatives program, is a sponsor of both Phil and Lisa Taylor’s portrait project and a Keller, Texas-based foundation that honors Staff Sgt. Viola.

While most of us slept, the maintenance hangar was transformed overnight into a formal setting for the annual Sky Ball Gala, which was held on Saturday evening. The theme for the event was “Why?” meaning why we do what we do and honor those who have served and sacrificed for our nation. The culminating fundraising event for the weekend, which included 18 of the 74 living recipients of the Medal of Honor, showcased six of the many organizations that the Airpower Foundation helps through funds raised at Sky Ball. Among so many things, the highlights were an amazing world-class dinner put on by Chef Irvine and a patriotic concert by the superstar duo Big and Rich.

Thank you to all of our sponsors, donors, distinguished guests, and the over 1,475 volunteers who helped make Sky Ball an incredible event that honored those who have served and sacrificed to ensure the freedoms that we enjoy.

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