For the third year in a row, Delta Air Lines is honored to fly 60 World War II veterans back to Normandy, France, to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the D-Day invasion that catalyzed the war’s end – marking only the third time a U.S. passenger airline will fly directly to Normandy, with the other two being the Delta Charter flights to Normandy in 2022 and 2023.
In partnership with Best Defense Foundation and the support of Michelin North America, Inc., Delta will provide a special charter flight directly to Deauville, Normandy Airport from Atlanta on June 2 on a Boeing 767-300, returning June 12, to support the veterans as they are recognized and celebrated with parades, school visits, ceremonies, the official D-Day Commemoration and more.
Best Defense Foundation provides caretakers for each WWII veteran throughout the program, including 15 Delta employees from its Veteran Business Resource Group – who receive special training to provide the safest and most memorable experience for the veterans. The airline is also piloting a volunteer program this year for its employees, which will pair an employee with a WWII veteran to build a relationship and offer support throughout the year.
“It is our privilege to celebrate and honor these heroes by flying them directly to Normandy and recognizing their incredible sacrifices and contributions to the world,” said Delta CEO Ed Bastian. “Supporting our armed service members and veterans, which we have proudly done throughout our history, is central to Delta’s values of always putting people first.”
Delta is proud to partner with Best Defense Foundation and the globally renowned French company, Michelin, two organizations that share Delta’s value of servant leadership – which in this case means ‘taking care of the ones who took care of us.’
“As time passes quickly for our WWII generation, it is our duty and honor to provide this opportunity of closure and camaraderie for those who gave so much,” said Donnie Edwards, President and Co-Founder of Best Defense Foundation. “With Delta as our Presenting partner and Michelin as a supporting partner, we are able to scale up this year’s program to provide this opportunity for more of our WWII heroes than ever before.”
In addition to honoring these veterans, the program seeks to engage and educate communities across the world so that the legacy of the Greatest Generation will live on. That’s why Best Defense Foundation – in partnership with Delta, Michelin and the Consul General of France – will select students to participate in its Next Generation Program, an opportunity to learn alongside these veterans about D-Day and WWII.
“The 80th Anniversary of the D-Day Landings in Normandy will be a very special opportunity to honor WWII Veterans through various events, and also to pass the torch of remembrance to the next generation,” said Hervé Morin, President of the Normandy Region. “We will also pay a special tribute to the memory of all those who fought to restore peace in Europe. They sacrificed their youth and endured immense suffering, and Normandy wishes to express its deep and eternal gratitude.”
ABOUT DELTA’S SUPPORT OF VETERANS
With 11% of Delta’s employees being veterans and many of them continuing to serve in the Guard or Reserves, Delta’s work to support veterans and their families dates back decades and includes several efforts, such as:
- Onboarding several new partners to help facilitate hiring veterans across the enterprise, including Military MOJO, Service Academy Career Conference, Value of a Veteran and MBA Veterans Network.
- Building a robust military talent pipeline through partnerships with organizations such as FourBlock, military.com and the PaYS Program to help veterans transition to civilian careers.
- Serving as a principal funder of four Fisher House Foundation facilities, where families of military personnel can stay at no cost while their loved ones receive treatment.
- Supporting 10 USO chapters through sponsorship and volunteer work, including assembling care packages, serving hot meals, and spending time with service members.
- Supporting Folds of Honor in 16 markets across the U.S. through funding for educational scholarships. Supporting the Marine Toys for Tots campaign for almost 20 years, providing bicycles and toys to children in need in December and contributing annually to the organization.
ABOUT BEST DEFENSE
Founded by Edwards as a 501c3 non-profit foundation, the Best Defense Foundation’s mission is to help veterans and their families. Its efforts are funded exclusively through sponsorships, private donations, fundraising events and Edwards’ own philanthropy and generosity. A cornerstone of the Foundation is a commitment to bring WWII veterans back to their battlefields to help them find closure and camaraderie with their brothers-in-arms and celebrate their acts of heroism and sacrifice all those years ago. Since 2018, the Foundation has provided ‘Battlefield Return’ programs to Iwo Jima, Belgium, the Eagle’s Nest, Guam, Tinian and Saipan, Normandy, and Germany.
ABOUT MICHELIN NORTH AMERICA, INC.
Michelin, the leading mobility company, is working with tires, around tires and beyond tires to enable Motion for Life. Michelin designs and distributes the most suitable tires, services and solutions for its customers’ needs. Michelin provides digital services, maps and guides to help enrich travel and make them unique experiences. The company has a long history of supporting Veterans and their families. Michelin has been recognized by Forbes as one of the best employers for Veterans, and in 2023 as the top automotive employer among best large employers for the second consecutive year. Across their organization, they attract and develop top talent in an environment focused on growth and development. “Michelin North America has a strong relationship with current and former military members to share and leverage experience, knowledge, and leadership collaboratively throughout our Michelin community. It is an honor for us to partner again with the Best Defense Foundation on such a unique experience and to help support those ‘who took care of us,’” said Col(ret) David Chapman, Vice President of Public Affairs for Michelin North America.