For the first time, a U.S. passenger airline will fly directly to Normandy with 30 World War II veterans on board. Delta is flying them for the annual commemoration of the 1944 D-Day invasion. Each veteran will be paired with a current Delta employee who also served in the U.S. military.
“This historic flight exemplifies the servant leadership of Delta people and the testament that ‘No One Better Connects the World,’” said Jim Graham, CEO of Endeavor and executive sponsor of Delta’s Veterans Business Resource Group. “The charter forges relationships as Delta veterans escort those who represent the Greatest Generation to the sites of the Normandy landings where they will be welcomed, celebrated and hosted by the people whose families were liberated on June 6, 1944.”
On June 1, this unique charter flight departed from Atlanta to Deauville, France, for a week-long program of events that includes the official D-Day Commemoration on June 6. This is in partnership with the Best Defense Foundation.
“The mission of the Best Defense Foundation is ‘taking care of those who took care of us,’” said Donnie Edwards, founder of Best Defense Foundation. “Through this amazing partnership with Delta Air Lines, we are able to accomplish this mission and provide these heroes with the opportunity to reconnect with their brothers, honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice and celebrate the liberation of an ally.”
This unique charter has its roots in the film The Girl Who Wore Freedom, a documentary depicting the annual commemorations in France that was added onboard last year to the Delta Studio.
“Throughout my work on the film, I hoped to have the opportunity to bring more veterans to this historic site, helping them to gain closure and letting them experience the immense gratitude of those who they helped to liberate,” said Christian Taylor, the film’s director. “There is no better tribute to ‘The Girl Who Wore Freedom’ than that our film inspired this return trip in partnership with the Best Defense Foundation, Delta Air Lines and Michelin, in honor of the 78th anniversary of D-Day.”
As one of the central people featured in the film, Dany Patrix Boucherie is pictured as a child wearing a dress made from parachutes of the American soldiers who liberated her and her family 78 years ago. Dany made the return to Normandy alongside the World War II and Delta veterans.
More than 9,000 Delta employees are veterans, with many of them continuing to serve in the Guard or Reserves. Delta veterans for this flight were selected from Delta’s Veterans Business Resource Group, with several having personal connections to the cause.
Capt. Dan Bauer will be honoring his grandfather, who served as a B-24 pilot in the Army Air Corps in World War II and inspired him to become an Air Force pilot. This opportunity will bring his family story full circle in service of others who have served.
“We are meeting, connecting and sharing camaraderie with these incredible veterans and making this more than just a journey back to the battlefield,” said Bauer. “Delta leads by example by putting the people, resources and most importantly the soul into making this truly amazing event a reality.”
Delta’s Veterans Business Resource Group is made up of more than 1,400 members and provides professional development, networking, and community service opportunities for veterans and supporters of the military.