MONTGOMERY, Ala. – BNSF Railway Company (BNSF) recently delivered holiday cheer on behalf of all BNSF employees through its Foundation’s donations of $10,000 checks to four nonprofit organizations that support military men and women and their families. This year due to the ongoing pandemic, BNSF had to make the tough decision to cancel its annual Holiday Express train ride, which honors military members and their families with a special train trip, holiday treats and a visit from Santa.
Since the Holiday Express’ inaugural trip in 2008, BNSF has donated to local organizations along the trips’ routes that support troops and their families. While the pandemic halted this year’s train trips, which were originally scheduled for the southeast portion of the BNSF network, Michael Garriga, BNSF executive director of public affairs, helped facilitate donations to regional organizations to ensure that resources were still allocated during this critical time of need.
“We were disappointed that we couldn’t take the military members and their families on board our train,” Garriga said. “But it still feels really good to know that even without the train, BNSF can honor these families and their sacrifices, especially during this difficult time.”
This year’s donation recipients include:
• The Governor’s Challenge of Alabama to Prevent Veteran Suicide
• Camp Alliance in Arkansas
• Mississippi Military Emergency Relief Fund
• Tennessee’s Auxiliary Soldier and Airman Relief Fund
Governor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide among Service Members, Veterans and their Families
In 2019, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration launched the Governor’s Challenge to Prevent Suicide among Service Members, Veterans and their Families. In September, Alabama joined the nationwide effort by forming a Governor’s Challenge team aimed at preventing suicide among service members, veterans and their families through a comprehensive public health approach.
The Governor’s Challenge team is co-led by Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs Commissioner Kent Davis and Still Serving Veterans President and CEO, Paulette Risher, in partnership with the Alabama Task Force on Veterans Suicide, Alabama Department of Mental Health, Alabama Department of Public Health, non-profits and veterans service organizations.
“On behalf of all Alabamians, I want to thank BNSF for donating this generous gift to our treasured veterans,” said Gov. Kay Ivey. “The men and women who have worn our nation’s uniform have made insurmountable sacrifices to protect our country and our freedom. We will stand with them and their families and commit to doing everything we can to prevent veteran suicide.”
Since its inception, the BNSF Holiday Express has hosted nearly 30,000 military personnel and their families. In that time, the BNSF Railway Foundation has donated about $1 million to organizations that support the troops and their families. Additionally, the Foundation has donated $2.4 million to the USO to benefit Operation Enduring Care along with other military support organizations.
“This is community stewardship that can serve as an example across the country. We simply could not do our mission of supporting veterans without partnerships like this in both the public and private sector,” said Davis. “To have a corporate organization step forward like this and be willing to contribute to veterans, service members and their families in general over the years, and specifically with the issue of veterans suicides in Alabama, from the bottom of our hearts we say thank you and God bless you.”