This article is supplied and sponsored by Raytheon
The tour bus goes quiet as the granite pillars and archways come into view along 17th Street in Washington. An announcement from the tour guide tells the old soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen what they already know: They've arrived at the National World War II Memorial.
They walk or wheel their way past a low-slung wall of 4,800 stars – each representing 100 American combat deaths – then begin to take in the rest: relief sculptures of wartime scenes, inscriptions bearing the names of the places they fought. That's when the power of the place really sets in, tour guide Dominic Quihuis said.
"It takes them a few minutes to take all the sights in. They try to find the specific battles they were in, and most of the time they start crying or they just won't say anything at all. They'll just sit back and think and reflect," said Quihuis, a volunteer for Honor Flight of Southern Arizona, which flies World War II veterans to the memorial free of charge. "Or they'll start telling you stories. They always tell the funny stories or the anecdotes. That's what got them through the hell they experienced for those four or five years."
Quihuis, an electrical engineer at Raytheon's Tucson, Ariz. plant, embodies the spirit of Raytheon's Week of Service, which celebrates employees' volunteer work – particularly time spent helping military veterans. The company employs more than 10,000 veterans, and Raytheon employees spent nearly 5,000 hours volunteering in support of the armed services in the first three quarters of 2014.
Events set for this year's Week of Service include:
• Scholarship announcements: Raytheon and Student Veterans of America will name the recipients of three $10,000 scholarships and will open applications for a new Patriot Scholarship, which will provide $10,000 each to two Army veterans who are pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree at an accredited university.
• Employee veterans group: The Raytheon Employee Veterans Network, or RAYVETS, a system of small groups working in support of veterans, is combining into an official Raytheon organization called an employee resource group. Raytheon's employee resource groups promote the company's culture of inclusion, diversity and individual empowerment.
• Fundraising: Raytheon's Young Employee Success Network will present a $25,000 check to Wounded Warrior Project, which helps veterans recover from the physical and psychological trauma of combat injuries. The group raised the money through a company-wide service campaign that promoted volunteerism in support of Wounded Warrior Project.
• Disney breakfast: Raytheon will host a Veterans Day breakfast at Shades of Green, a hotel for active duty and retired military members at the Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida;
• Employee receptions: Raytheon campuses across the country will hold receptions for employees who have served in the military.
Raytheon holds a character breakfast for veterans and their families at Shades of Green, a hotel for vacationing active duty and retired military members at Walt Disney World Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
Several of these events have become important traditions for the company. The Shades of Green event is a VIP breakfast for military families that includes photos with Mickey and Minnie Mouse and other Disney characters, and it has become a favorite event for Raytheon employees who turn out to help. "We have no problem getting volunteers," said Erin Crowell, an employee at Raytheon's Intelligence, Information and Services business who helped at last year's breakfast and plans to return this year. "We have a group of people who enjoy anything having to do with veterans …. It's nice to tell them, 'Thank you.'"
Raytheon also has renewed its sponsorship of the Wounded Warrior Suite at Shades of Green. The 1,200-square-foot suite is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and can accommodate 10 adults and four children.
The employee reception at Raytheon's Tucson campus has also become a much-anticipated Veterans Day tradition.
"The reason the Veterans Day events here are such a hit is because we feel the company really cares," said Jackie Salter, a 22-year U.S. Air Force veteran who works as an administrative specialist in Tucson.
Salter, who volunteers at the reception, said the event underscores Raytheon's support of veterans.
"It's just like being a parent: You can tell your kids to do something, but you have to lead by example," she said. "It's the same thing with our company – we say we support the warfighter, and that's great, but guess what. We really do."
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