Military Heroes Month: Serving My Country with the Support of My Company

Nov 18, 2013 9:15 AM ET

Nuts about Southwest

Military Heroes Month: Serving My Country with the Support of My Company

By: Emily Estapa

In 2014, I will celebrate my 17th year of military service. Throughout my career, I have had the amazing opportunity to travel all over the world and serve in several different combat and non-combat theaters. When I reflect back on my military career, I am reminded that it would have been possible without the tremendous support and flexibility from my Southwest Airlines Family.

In May 1997, I was a sophomore at Louisiana State University. Throughout my life, my father spoke fondly of his time as an Air Force pilot, and I always had the desire to serve my country. After several long conversations with him, I elected to enlist with the Louisiana Air National Guard.  I spent the first eight years of my service enlisted, and in 2004 I completed Officer Candidate School, received my commission, and became an Aircraft Maintenance Officer with the Ohio National Guard.

People often ask me about my most memorable Southwest moment and I never hesitate to answer, “the day I was hired!” I interviewed with Southwest in August 2001 for a position in Crew Scheduling, only to receive a call following the tragedy of Sept. 11 explaining they were on a hiring freeze until further notice. Just over a month later, I was packing my bags and heading to the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey to support Operation Northern Watch. Just two weeks after my return from the 120-day deployment, I got a call from the People Department asking if I was still interested in joining their Team. Next thing I knew, I was packing up my car and moving from New Orleans to Dallas!

Throughout my time at Southwest, my Leadership and Coworkers were always supportive of my service in the military. In 2010, I was reminded of just how lucky I am to work for such an amazing Company.  I started an assignment in Budapest, Hungary as the liaison for the United States European Command, United States Embassy and the Ohio National Guard. Just two weeks after arriving, I had an accident and suffered a traumatic brain injury. I spent several days in a Hungarian trauma center before being medevacked to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany. During my stay at Landstuhl I received several notes and cards from my SWA Coworkers with words of encouragement and wishes for a speedy recovery.

Even after returning to my assignment in Budapest, the care packages kept on coming! Every few weeks I would get a call from the mailroom saying another box of goodies had arrived. My colleagues in Hungary, including the Foreign Service Nationals, were so impressed with the enormous amount of support I was receiving (and they absolutely loved the Girl Scout Cookies)! I know that my Southwest Family has always been proud of my work in the service, and as I opened those care packages and notes, I was just as proud to call myself a Southwest Employee.

To this day, I share these stories with family and friends. I feel very fortunate and am very grateful to have the opportunity to work for a Company that is so incredibly supportive and committed to helping those who are serving our Country.