For millions of Americans, Veterans Day is an occasion to remember those living and past who have served on behalf of their country. Cities and towns all over the United States will host wreath-laying ceremonies and parades and observe moments of silence to remember those who have fallen on battlefields.

Coca-Cola Employees Send Thousands of Packages to Troops

Private sector and not-for-profit organizations also team up with communities to show support for veterans. Case in point: Coca-Cola, which held its 13th Annual Veterans Day celebration on Wednesday, Nov. 7, and Thursday, Nov. 8, in Atlanta, Georgia. The event involved more than 400 Coca-Cola employees donating their time and energy to stuff nearly 10,000 care packages that were sent to troops based in Afghanistan.

Few organizations can boast of the long-standing history of support for U.S. veterans that Coca-Cola can. In 1941, as the U.S. found itself in the middle of World War II, Chief Executive Officer Robert Woodruff made it a priority that every U.S. soldier, sailor, airman and marine could get a Coke for a nickel — regardless of what it cost the company.  

To make good on that promise, despite the severe rationing of staples like sugar, Coca-Cola constructed and operated 64 bottling plants during the war. Those plants produced more than 5 billion bottles of Coke available to servicemen and -women across the globe. 

Helping Veterans on Their Return Home

“Not only did our company step up to that challenge 71 years ago, we have been delivering every day since then,” says Quinton Martin, executive assistant to the office of the president, Coca-Cola North America, and vice president, community marketing, Coca-Cola North America. “All of this ties into our company’s heritage of supporting our servicemen and -women.”

In an effort to help bring attention to challenges many veterans face after the completion of their service, the company highlighted its veterans recruitment program and ongoing support of the United Service Organizations (USO) with its Veterans Day events.

At the event, Coca-Cola honored Home Depot for its efforts to combat homelessness among U.S. veterans.

“The Home Depot Foundation has committed $50 million over the next three years to help build and renovate the homes of military veterans from wars past and present,” said John Phillips, Coca-Cola Refreshment finance director, IT, and president of the Coca-Cola Military Veterans Business Resource Group.

In past years Coca-Cola has also honored other key supporters of U.S. veterans such as Outback International, Texas Roadhouse, Universal Studios Theme Parks & Resorts and American Airlines.

Coca-Cola also acknowledged the service and commitment of its associates who have served in the military. In particular, Steve Cahillane, the president and CEO of Coca-Cola Refreshments, signed a letter of commitment and support for the Employer Support Guard and Reserve, a Department of Defense organization that helps ensure that private and public companies comply with laws that protect the jobs of National Guardsmen and Reservists who are called to active duty.

Michelle Jones, director of external veteran/military affairs and community outreach with the United States Office of Personnel Management, delivered a keynote speech. This is the federal organization charged with generating jobs for veterans in the private sector, and Jones spoke to the high level of skill and commitment veterans bring to the workplace. 

“Ms. Jones, a retired U.S. Army Command Sergeant Major and the first woman to earn that honor in the U.S. Army Reserves, spoke about the advantages of hiring veterans — something that Coca-Cola has recommitted to with the new campaign launched by Coca-Cola Refreshments,” said Phillips.

Coca-Cola: Supporting Veterans and Their Families

Coca-Cola offered entertainment as well, including a performance by Mark Wills — a popular country music entertainer from Blue Ridge, Ga., who has toured with the USO in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The company also joined in the Georgia Veterans Day parade on Nov. 10. “The parade really helps us connect with the community,” said Phillips, who hinted that there could be additional surprises in store for visitors and veterans who visited the World of Coca-Cola exhibition space that day.

As part of its Veterans Day support efforts, Coca-Cola participated in a black-tie military ball at the Georgia Aquarium that featured sponsors like the Pentagon and CNN. 

“The entire event this year represented a big push for military awareness in the Atlanta area, especially around homeless veterans and employment opportunities for veterans,” Phillips said. 

Read more recent Veterans Day posts from the Coca-Cola Conversations blog.