Members of the U.S. military are given a small taste of home as they return from service overseas to Colorado Springs. When airplanes touch down and service members are reunited with their families, they are each provided with a Coca-Cola beverage and McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese, along with a personal welcome and thank you from Coca-Cola associates and other volunteers.
The effort is all part of “Hungry Heroes,” an initiative through the Home Front Cares program of Colorado Springs. Hungry Heroes unites hundreds of volunteers from various organizations – including Coca-Cola and McDonald’s – to help welcome troops home at any time of day. Since the program first began in 2003, more than 130,000 Coca-Cola beverages and cheeseburgers have been distributed to returning soldiers.
“We appreciate the military service and support they provide in our community,” said Annette Loomis, Manager of the Colorado Springs Distribution Center. “It’s only fitting that we give back to the troops when we can. Working in collaboration with one of our great partners, McDonalds, the Hungry Heroes program has really been rewarding.”
In 2012 alone, associates from Coca-Cola Refreshment’s Colorado Springs facility handed out 400 cases of product to more than 9,000 soldiers returning from war.
The group has already begun greeting units flying in from Afghanistan in 2013.
“There is no way to overestimate how appreciative these soldiers are from getting a Coke and a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese,” Loomis said. “The soldiers feel a true homecoming in receiving these American icons.”
But Coca-Cola associates say the experience is just as moving for them.
“To appreciate what our Military Troops sacrifice for us, one must go and welcome them home,” said Robert Seaborn, Distribution Supervisor, Colorado Springs. “The experience is truly priceless.”
"Those who have volunteered to welcome home the troops agree that they get more out of the experience than the troops do. Once you see soldiers walking down the tarmac, you realize how much they have sacrificed during their deployment,” Loomis said.
With five military installations in its city limits, Colorado Springs has a strong military presence. Many Colorado Springs Coca-Cola associates are military veterans, and several remain on active duty.
Coca-Cola has a longstanding commitment to the country’s men and women in uniform. In 2012, President of Coca-Cola Americas Steve Cahillane announced that the Company had surpassed its 2012 veteran hiring goal to put 800 veterans back to work. Coca-Cola now employs more than 5,500 veterans across all 50 states.
Amy Cross is Manager of Internal Communications at Coca-Cola North America Group.