From veteran employment pledges and entrepreneur boot camp to free meals and vacations, U.S. companies across the nation stepped up to honor our veterans and active duty military on Veterans Day.
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More than 24,000 American businesses offered discounts to the more than 22.3 million veterans. From food, retail, hospitality and consumer products through to financial services, insurance and energy, companies from a wide range of industries showed their support.
So who were some of the standouts in big business? Here are some highlights from this year’s Veterans Day.
In consumer products, two soft drink titans eclipsed the rest of the sector with their Veterans Day announcements.
Coca-Cola (KO) and Chicago Mayor Emanuel announced a $3 million grant to found the Park Families Wellness Initiative and hire U.S. veterans to teach military-style fitness classes.
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PepsiCo (PEP) announced a $500,000 donation to the Entrepreneurship Boot Camp for Veterans with Disabilities. With this donation, the company has given a cumulative $1.5 million to this charity that supports career training and job creation for post-9/11 disabled veterans.
Harry & David launched teaming up once again with non-profit Soldiers’ Angels to ship care packages to U.S. soldiers in combat through December 24th.
Since the fall of 2010, Harry & David donations and the “Support Our Troops with Moose Munch Bars” program have sent almost 300,000 Moose Munch Bars and Bites to soldiers in military bases abroad.
Westgate Resorts, led by CEO and veteran David A. Siegel, gave away 1,500 three-day and two-night vacations to the first 1,500 military members who served in post 9/11 operations and called in on November ninth.
The food industry traditionally shows outstanding support and this year was no exception. Some national chains like Applebee’s, Chili’s, Bar Louie and Hooters set themselves apart welcoming vets and service members to entire free meals on Veterans Day.
Max & Erma’s, co-founded by veteran Max Visocnik, always saved room at his bar for fellow vets and decades later the company keeps the tradition alive, offering vets and active service personnel a three-course meal.
Veterans had their pick for breakfast on the house. Arguably, Denny’s went the biggest with free all-you-can-eat pancakes. Friendly’s also offered a free breakfast, Einstein Bros Bagels a free bagel and Krispy Kreme and Tim Horton’s stumped up a free doughnut.
For a free lunch, veterans could visit TGI Fridays and Sizzler and for those in the mood for Mongolian, mid-western chain BD’s Mongolian Grill provided half off a stir-fry.
Free steaks were available at Charley Brown’s Steakhouse and free pizzas were on offer from California Pizza Kitchen and Uno Chicago Grill.
Lone Star Steakhouse, McCormick and Schmicks Seafood Restaurants and Olive Garden also offered a free entrée.
Some national chains also demonstrated patriotic spirit, but on a smaller scale, such as Coffee Beanery with their free large coffees and 7-Eleven offering one free “slurpee.”
Banana Republic easily outstripped other national retailers with their generous 50% discount.
Elsewhere in retail, Walgreens (WAG) and Duane Reade offered 20% off, while in sporting goods Sports Authority offered a 15% discount.
Amazon (AMZN) offered a free mp3 album download of “Veterans Day Honor” and Netflix (NFLX) one month free rentals.
High-performance personal audio company Monster and Spike TV launched Monster DNA Camouflage Headphones available exclusively at Best Buy (BBY). A portion of all sale proceeds will go to Hire a Vet and two other excellent veteran related charities Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America and Got Your 6.
Small local businesses across the country in retail particularly stepped up. Thousands of local car washes, for example, offered local vets a free car wash.
Cigna (CI) announced the company will sponsor Achilles at the 2013 Walt Disney World Marathon Weekend with grants of nearly $45,000 allowing 25 athletes and children to participate. Nonprofit Achilles enables wounded veterans and other people with disabilities to participate in mainstream athletics.
This year, the Cigna Foundation also provided more than $150,000 to help veterans through the Veterans Group National Alliance for the Mentally Ill and the Lone Survivor Foundation.
In the energy sector, Phillips 66 announced it will partner with the Center for America becoming the “American Jobs for America’s Heroes” lead corporate sponsor.
The nonprofit alliance with the National Guard intends to help the approximately 60,000 unemployed National Guard members and veterans find skilled jobs in the private sector.
In contention for biggest show of support on Veterans Day, Capital One (COF) committed a whopping $4.5 million toward Hiring Our Heroes. In partnership with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s National Chamber Foundation, the company has set a goal of finding 500,000 jobs for vets and military spouses by the end of 2014.