WASHINGTON (Jan. 28, 2005) – Wounded members of the military who are hospitalized in the Washington, D.C., area will get a night on the town at a popular restaurant thanks, in part, to two organizations committed to helping American troops. Wal-Mart, through a partnership with the Veterans of Foreign Wars Foundation, will help Fran O’Brien’s Stadium Steakhouse continue to provide free “Friday Nights Out” to injured servicemen and women who are recuperating at nearby Walter Reed Army Medical Center and Bethesda Naval Hospital.
The Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club Foundation awarded the VFW Foundation a $1 million matching grant last summer to support VFW programs that aid military members and their families. Fifty thousand dollars of that grant was earmarked to underwrite the cost of dinners for wounded troops at Fran OBriens.
According to restaurant co-owner Hal Koster, Fran O’Brien’s has provided free dinners to wounded troops and their families since October 2003. Last year they served about 2,300 dinners at a total cost of almost $160,000, an expense that was initially absorbed internally but is now being largely offset by outside donations.
“With so many worthy ‘Support the Troops’ functions across the nation, we are extremely grateful to Wal-Mart and the VFW Foundation for choosing to support our program here in our Nation’s Capitol.” said Koster, a Vietnam veteran.
“Our country owes a debt of gratitude to our military men and women, especially those who have been wounded while serving our country,” said Erik Winborn, a retired Air Force officer and now vice president of corporate affairs for Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
“Wal-Mart is honored to partner with the VFW to provide these heroes with the opportunity to go to Fran O’Brien’s and enjoy dinner and an evening away from the hospital environment,” he said. “It’s just one small way we can say ‘thank you’ for their service and sacrifice to our country.”
Echoing Winborn’s comments was John J. Senk Jr., a Vietnam veteran and the president of the VFW Foundation.
“People from across the country are doing all they can to support our troops and their families,” said Senk, “and corporations like Wal-Mart are integral to that support because they, like many other public and private entities, have employees whose Guard or Reserve units were activated in this war against terrorism. These companies continue to provide employee benefits and even make up the salary difference just so that families don’t have to suffer financially during the separation,” he said.
“That has a huge impact on morale, and good morale means everything in the field and at home.”
Wal-Mart has been a strong supporter of the VFW’s Operation Uplink program that distributes free phone cards to deploying personnel and those recuperating in hospitals. Since 1996, the VFW program has distributed more than seven million phone cards.
Currently, 3,200 Wal-Mart associates are on military leave. Wal-Mart proudly offers continuation of benefits and salary differential to associates called to active duty. The company provides millions of dollars in financial aid to military family-support organizations and works with manufacturers to supply clothing for the wounded and special-need items for the troops. Wal-Mart customers nationwide have also sent hundreds of thousands of messages of support to military men and women through in-store kiosks.
About the VFW
Founded in 1899, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. is the largest organization of combat veterans in the nation. There are more than 2.4 million VFW and Ladies Auxiliary members located in approximately 9,000 VFW Posts worldwide. The VFW is a nonprofit, 501(c)(19) veterans service organization. Additional information can be found at www.vfw.org.
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