Transitioning from the military into civilian life requires more than just learning new lingo or donning new attire. It’s a cultural shift that is drastic and often daunting for service members.
That’s why the USO launched the USO Transition 360 Alliance earlier this year to support and assist service members and their families as they transition out of the military. And Coca-Cola and Cracker Barrel Old Country Store are teaming up with a special Veterans Day promotion benefiting the new organization alliance.
The USO has delivered entertainment and support to troops at home and abroad since World War II. Coca-Cola has been delivering a taste of home to troops on carriers and in foxholes for just as long.
“Serving the military is part of our DNA at Coca-Cola,” said Ted Ryan, director of Heritage Communications at Coca-Cola.
During World War II, Ryan explained, at the request of General Eisenhower, Coca-Cola built 64 bottling plants around the world spending more than $5 million out of pocket to put a Coke in the hand of every man in uniform to help boost morale.
As the circumstances service members confront continue to morph over the years, so do the companies and organizations that serve them. According to the Department of Defense, more than 250,000 service members will transition back into civilian communities each year for the next four years. Since May, USO Transition 360 Alliance has helped more than 30,000 military members and their families during that process. The program focuses on three pillars to successful transition: developing a plan for the future, pursuing new career paths, and strengthening their families and community network.
“We are proud to be always by the side of our servicemen and women and their families. In order to do that we are constantly adapting to meet their ever-changing needs,” said Susan Thomas, vice president, of programs, USO.
USO Transition 360 Alliance combines the capabilities of four established organizations, with the USO as the pin-point to connect military and family members to specific resources. The partners include: RP/6, Hire Heroes USA, Stronger Families, and Comfort Crew for Military Kids. Each organization addresses stressors that can impact one or more family member during the transition, such as marital communication, new surroundings, or applying for jobs.
“The USO carefully evaluated the ongoing needs of service members and their families who are transitioning back to civilian life,” Thomas said. “Based on that assessment, the USO brought four organizations together to combine the very best of what each of us has to offer America’s transitioning military families, on a scale that no single organization could achieve alone.”
To further adapt to these needs, Coca-Cola and the USO have sweetened their 74-year partnership by once again teaming up with Cracker Barrel. On Veterans Day, Cracker Barrel will donate 10 percent of the sales price of the purchase of select retail merchandise now through Nov. 11 and the Double Chocolate Fudge Coca-Cola® Cake on Veterans Day to USO Transition 360 Alliance. Additionally, Veterans can enjoy a free slice of the popular cake when they visit any Cracker Barrel® location on Nov. 11.
“Our primary philanthropic focus is military families,” said Beverly Carmichael, senior vice president and chief people officer of Cracker Barrel. “We found that the USO Transition 360 Alliance is a perfect partner around military families because the organizations that make up the alliance are all really focused in some way on military families.”
Carmichael’s hope is that veterans will feel honored and citizens will feel compelled to honor them when they walk in Cracker Barrel locations on Veterans Day, or any day of the year. Better yet, while customers connect over cake on Veterans Day, they can support troops and their families.
“The USO Transition 360 Alliance is how the American public can best connect with and support service members as they transition out of service,” Thomas said.
"Since 1941, The Coca-Cola Company has been by the USO's side, helping to support service members and their families,” said Erika Von Heiland Strader, director of Community Marketing, Coca-Cola North America. “Today, our love of the military continues to be strong and we’re proud to be a founding partner of the USO.”
Coca-Cola’s focus on helping military families successfully transition to civilian life doesn’t stop there. More than 100 veterans will visit The Coca-Cola Company’s headquarters in Atlanta on Nov. 12 for a Hire Heroes USA workshop followed by a Veterans Employment Transition Conference with American Corporate Partners. Participating veterans will engage in a full day of resume reviews, mock interviews and networking. This is the first time Hire Heroes USA and American Corporate Partners are combining forces to mentor veterans on the hiring process. The two non-profits were connected through Vetlanta, a group of Atlanta-based companies including Coca-Cola that support and network with veterans.