Thank you to Coca-Cola for sponsoring this post and for hosting me at their Annual USO Care Package Stuffing Party. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Many of you may know that my brother serves our country with the U.S. Coast Guard. He’s been stationed in various places, some tropical and warm, others in temperate, chilly rainforests. He’s been stationed aboard a ship, braved strategy games at sea, and seen some of the most beautiful parts of our country while securing our safety. I didn’t realize how dedicated our service members were to our country until my brother enlisted. Since then, I’ve had pen pals in the Army, sent numerous care packages and donated funds to show my support for our brave men and women. But what more could I do? Veterans Day is upon us, and the annual celebration of servicemen in November is not something I overlook.
This particular year (2016) happens to mark the celebration of TWO 75-year anniversaries for The Coca-Cola Company: the founding of the USO (and Coca-Cola’s partnership with the organization) and the beginning of Coca-Cola’s commitment to America’s military. It’s also the 17th annual Veterans Day Celebration at Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta and the company’s 7th official USO Care Package Stuffing Party. That’s a lot of support and celebration; count me in! I was honored to be able to attend the Stuffing Party for Veterans Day, where over 400 Coca-Cola employees volunteered together to stuff 10,000 care packages to send overseas.
I manned a post in front of giant bins filled with various toiletry items. I later learned that these specific items were requests from service members in South-West Asia. These kits were going straight to them, and would arrive about a week after the stuffing. Did you see the Dopp Kit bag above? It’s made from heavy-duty canvas, with webbing on the back and a hanging hook inside. The design was also specified by the service men and women, so they can hang it on a Humvee, a ruck sack, or anywhere they happen to be. It included shampoo, deodorant, toothbrush and paste, lip balm, eye drops, a comb and other products. Topped off with an individual note, the kits were packed into boxes and taped for delivery by the USO.
This incredible event, hosted by Coca-Cola in partnership with the USO, aligns with their longstanding support of service members. Dating back to World War II, Coca-Cola’s support began when then company President Robert Woodruff committed that, “every man in uniform gets a bottle of Coca-Cola for 5 cents, wherever he is and whatever it costs the company.” Wow, is what I say. Today, along with veteran hiring and mentoring efforts, Coca-Cola provides a taste of home (approximately 2.4 million beverage servings per day) to active-duty members of the Armed Forces, reservists, retirees and their families.
As I entered the workforce a number of years ago, I always remembered hearing that certain companies, like Coca-Cola, “hired veterans.” I honestly didn’t give it much thought beyond the appreciation that the company did so. After sitting down at a roundtable interview with Mark Rahiya, Chief US Sales & Operations Officer, Coca-Cola Refreshments, I learned about the many ways Coca-Cola mentors, supports and hires veterans. Since 2014, Coca-Cola has partnered with the non-profit American Corporate Partners, which is dedicated to assisting veterans in their transition from the armed services to the civilian workforce. To date, more than 100 Coca-Cola employees have served as mentors to 124 veterans making this transition. They also participate in the US Army Partnership for Youth Success (PaYS), a program that pledges to interview veterans for employment after honorable discharge or completion of required active duty training. Several other companies participate as well, giving our Armed Forces members another tool to enter the workforce and build a second career.
In 2013, Coca-Cola reviewed the number of veterans they employed, knowing that because of their experience, confidence, big ideas, and dedication, they make incredibly successful employees. Mark Rahiya says that raw material is what they want to teach Coca-Cola’s principles to and train them to success. They made a 5-year goal to hire 5,000 veterans and exceeded that goal in less than 4 years. In the future, Rahiya says they want to make another similar goal and meet that, as well. You can see Mr. Rahiya speak below in an episode of Hiring America. Only a 10-minute watch, the video will give you even more insight into Coca-Cola’s support for veterans and America’s military. Veterans looking for information about career opportunities, mentorship or other programs at Coca-Cola can visit http://www.enjoycareers.com/military/.
The Coca-Cola Company is committed to honoring our nation’s heroes through veteran hiring and mentoring programs, support of the USO and, of course, providing great-tasting beverages to military members and their families. So don’t forget the amazing offer I shared on my Facebook page: If you’re a military member (active duty, reserves or retired), you can visit the World of Coca-Cola year-round for free, and bring up to four friends or family members this weekend only (through Nov. 13) at half price. It’s the perfect reason to head downtown and get your family to taste test the Beverly…
You can also leave me a comment below about your own connection to the U.S. military and why it’s important to you to celebrate our Armed Forces on Veterans Day.