R&R Program's 100,000th Passenger Receives Hero's Welcome
American Forces Press Service
DALLAS-FORT WORTH INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT, Texas, Aug. 27, 2004 Stepping off the plane here to a hero's welcome, Army Sgt. Charles Petty of Gillette, Wyo., was greeted today by more than 100 well wishers, airport volunteers and community groups as the 100,000th servicemember to have participated in the Defense Department's rest and recuperation leave program.
Army Sgt. Charles Petty, 89th Military Police Brigade, Camp
Steel Dragon, Baghdad, Iraq, thanks well-wishers upon his Aug. 27 arrival at
Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport for rest and recuperation leave. Petty
received special gifts and recognition as the R&R leave program's 100,000th
passenger. Photo courtesy of Dallas-Fort Worth International
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Petty, assigned to the 89th Military Police Brigade, Camp Steel Dragon, Baghdad, Iraq, was presented with a Dallas-Fort Worth Airport gift bag, one of the airport's "Hats for Heroes" baseball caps, a six-pack of Diet Pepsi bearing the airport's logo and gift certificates from TGI Friday's and Blockbuster Video.
He also received a $200 Army and Air Force Exchange Service gift certificate, a trip from SATO Travel, a military-contracted travel agency, a portable compact disc player, a watch, a radio and first class flight accommodations on his flight home from DFW for his R&R leave.
Airport officials said the milestone is another highlight to a daily welcoming ceremony that has become a North Texas tradition, with so many community groups wanting to volunteer that a waiting list had to be created.
"We are exceptionally proud to pause and celebrate this momentous occasion for Sergeant Petty, our airport and our country," says Jim Crites, executive vice president of operations at DFW. "It's also a great reminder of the daily celebration our community organizes for each and every R&R flight that arrives at DFW. We are so delighted to have the opportunity to honor and welcome home all of our brave soldiers and are humbled by the outpouring of affection exhibited by our local community who selflessly serve their country."
DFW is one of only two U.S. airports now hosting the R&R program, along with Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Airport officials worked closely with the North Texas Commission to mobilize greeting groups from nearby cities, chambers of commerce, schools, clubs and scouts. More than 1,500 volunteers have participated in the program since June 16, and community groups have "booked ahead" daily greetings for every day through January, with a waiting list of organizations ready to participate.
"We are delighted to assist DFW International Airport with its greeting program for the troops returning for R&R," said Dan Petty, president and chief executive officer of the North Texas Commission, a regional nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the economy and quality of life in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. "This is truly a regional effort of patriotic citizens wanting to show their support for our troops. And we have also received a number of letters from soldiers expressing their gratitude for the warm welcome they received at DFW. We're glad to do it."
The airport has donated more than $500,000 in landing fees and other services since the R&R program began, and continues to mobilize its customer service, operations and interfaith chaplaincy departments to assist special needs of soldiers, along with its DFW Airport Ambassador corps and community groups, officials said.
The United Service Organizations opened a facility at DFW on Memorial Day to accommodate soldiers and their families. The DFW USO is located in Terminal B near Gate B-14.