I recently spent the day at The Coca-Cola Company headquarters, helping to stuff care packages to send to the military. This is a sponsored campaign for Coca-Cola; however, as always, all opinions and bad puns are 100% my own.
I never thought packing tubes of toothpaste would lead to such humbling, drop-to-my-knees revelations, and yet, that’s exactly what happened to me the other day. I was invited to work alongside hundreds of Coca-Cola employees who volunteered to help stuff care packages for the USO to send to our troops. It was an assembly-lined process, and in its seventh year, ran like a well-oiled machine. I happened to be in front of the large bin of toothpaste tubes, at the front of the assembly line. Next to me were packages of disposable razor blades, and a few bins down from there were bottles of eye drops. Knowing the service members offered feedback and helped determine what items were NEEDED for these care bags made the eye drops all the more of a reality to me.
I mean, I have eye drops at my house, and shortly after LASIK, I kept eye drops on me at all times, and recall the insane discomfort of dry eyes, and thus the necessity of carrying eye drops with me at all times. But my discomfort was short-lived (and elective). Enough of our service members expressed a need for dry eye relief, to necessitate carrying it with them at all times.
It both blew my mind and made my heart hurt just a little, but also gave me a sense of pride in my friends, my family, and complete strangers who have selflessly served our country. Such a simple thing as dry eyes also made my heart swell with pride, knowing the sacrifices these brave men and women face everyday, and the men and women who went before them. It’s but one small indication of what our military go through on a daily basis while deployed, and a small token of the sacrifice and discomfort they face in order to serve our country.
This made the experience at Coca-Cola earlier this week all the more real, and all the more worthwhile, in knowing that the work we did that day would make an impact on our men and women serving our country. Also, I was pleased to learn more about Coca-Cola’s ties to the military, as well as the USO.
The Coca-Cola company’s rich history of supporting the military stretches back 75 years when the company began a unique partnership with the US military. You see, Coca-Cola has been working alongside the United Service Organizations (USO) since its beginning back in 1941, when then company president Robert Woodruff committed “to see that every person in uniform gets a bottle of Coca-Cola for 5¢” (wouldn’t it be nice if those prices were still in effect?!). In fact, when General Eisenhower reached out to Woodruff in 1941, it was to ask for Coke to be sent overseas during the war. Plants followed military theaters, which greatly helped launch Coca-Cola on to the international stage. By the end of the war, over 5 billion Coca-Colas had been served.
Now, Coca-Cola remains committed to honoring our nation’s heroes through veteran hiring and mentoring programs, which I learned more about first hand in a sit-down with Mark Rahyia, Chief US Sales & Operations Officer, Coca-Cola Refreshments, who has been with the company for 19 years, and proudly served in the Navy. Most impressive were these facts:
Fun Facts: Coca-Cola’s Military Commitment
- In 2013, Coca-Cola made a 5 year goal to hire 5,000 veterans. The company had already been hiring veterans, but wanted to focus specifically on this goal. As of October, they’ve exceeded this goal, more than a year ahead of schedule.
- Veterans looking for information about career opportunities at Coca-Cola can visit http://www.enjoycareers.com/military/. They also participate in the Department of Defense’s Military Spouse Employment Partnership, among other recruitment programs.
- Coca-Cola is part of Partnership for Youth Success (PaYS), which is a recruitment program for youth military, which guarantees job interviews for 3-4 companies (Coke included) upon leaving the military. The group works to support veterans both inside and outside the company.
- Since 2014, Coca-Cola has partnered with American Corporate Partners (ACP), a nonprofit organization 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.
- Coca-Cola is part of the U.S. Army Training With Industry (TWI) and U.S. Air Force Education With Industry (EWI) programs, which bring service members into the company (to a department commensurate with their military career) to learn business perspectives and best practices and share their unique military experience and backgrounds.
- “7” is the magic number this year for Coca-Cola. They are celebrating the 75th birthday of the USO and 75 years of partnership with the organization to support our military. This week marked 70,000 care packages Coca-Cola assembled over the last 7 years to help boost morale overseas.
- Active military personnel and veterans are always offered free admission to the World of Coca-Cola. Surrounding Veterans Day each year, a discount is extended to family members, as well, so military families can enjoy the World of Coca-Cola together at a deep discount.
- Every year Coke recognizes employees who are veterans, or employees with family in the military. Many historic pieces of military art are displayed along the hallways of Coca-Cola headquarters. Peppered in with posters of employees include the artwork proudly depicting military med and women from the 1940s campaigns, original artwork by Haddon Sundblom.
As a Georgia girl raised in Atlanta, I’ve always felt a strong loyalty to the Coca-Cola brand, not only because it’s always been the “local brand”, but because I strongly see the company’s presence both in the local community AND on the global stage. Seeing now the strong support Coca-Cola extends to our men and women who serve our country only strengthens my loyalty and love of the brand. Both my grandfathers were in the Navy, along with my father-in-law (a Vietnam vet), several uncles and cousins also served, as well as childhood friends who proudly still serve our country (a few taking on multiple tours, God bless them!) – all this drives Coca-Cola’s commitment a little closer to home for me, and making me proud to support the company and thus also the military.
This Friday is Veterans’ Day. Please thank a veteran or military member in your life, not just on Veterans’ Day but any given day. Share with them all the great ways companies around the country are thanking them, and share below in the comments with ways YOU can thank our fine men and women who serve our country.
Keep on saving! :o)
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