'Operation Salute' Offers Free Park Admissions
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 20, 2003 Service members and their families have until Nov. 11 to take advantage of a highly popular program that offers free admission to Anheuser-Busch theme parks.
Air Force Lt. Stephen Braddy, with his son Timothy, receives a one-flipper salute from Shamu the killer whale for being the 100,000th military guest at SeaWorld Orlando through Operation Salute, Sept. 5. The program provides free park admission to military members and their families. Photo by Chris Gotshall, courtesy of SeaWorld Orlando
(Click photo for screen-resolution image)
Thousands of service members and their families have already taken advantage of "Operation Salute," which offers free tickets to Busch Gardens in Tampa, Fla., and Williamsburg, Va.; SeaWorld in Orlando, Fla., San Antonio and San Diego; and Sesame Place in Langhorne, Pa., according to Anheuser-Busch officials.
On Sept. 5, Air Force Lt. Stephen Braddy became the 100,000th military guest to visit SeaWorld Orlando through the program. And although unable to give updated numbers about just how many additional service members have visited the parks, an Anheuser-Busch official said it has been "a lot."
Anheuser-Busch launched Operation Salute in May to honor military members for their role in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"It is our privilege to offer our parks to the men and women of our armed forces and their families," said Patrick Stokes, president and chief executive officer of Anheuser- Busch. "It is a small gesture of thanks for the hardships endured every day by our soldiers and those closest to them," he added.
"The men and women in our armed forces have made tremendous sacrifices, risking their lives and being separated from their families during the war," agreed August A. Busch III, chairman of Anheuser-Busch. "We wanted to express our deep gratitude for their service, and this gives those who serve and their families some needed relaxation and enjoyment."
The free admission is offered to all active duty military, ready and standby reservists, U.S. Coast Guardsmen, National Guardsmen, coalition forces serving with U.S. troops in Operation Iraqi Freedom and foreign military personnel servicing with U.S. units.
Up to four of the service member's immediate family members also qualify for free admission tickets through the program, even if the service member is unable to accompany them.
To get the free tickets, requesters must visit their local morale, welfare and recreation ticket office to get an application form. Completed forms are redeemable at park ticket windows. Military identification cards are required.
As an extension of the program, Anheuser-Busch recently announced plans to donate its nonalcohol brews -- O'Doul's and O'Doul's Amber -- to service members in Iraq and Afghanistan. The company also will donate its 180 Energy Drink and 180 Sport vitamin-enhanced water and more than 18,000 pieces of sporting equipment.
Anheuser-Busch also donated $1 million to create the Intrepid/Anheuser-Busch Fallen Heroes Fund, which will provide scholarships to spouses and children of U.S. and coalition forces killed during the war in Iraq. The company also is matching its employees' contributions to the United Service Organizations through Veterans Day.
"Operation Salute is exactly what we mean at the USO when we talk about the incredible power of 'Thank You,'" said Edward A. Powell, USO president and chief executive officer. "It is an extraordinary example of a company's recognition of the sacrifices our military makes on behalf of all Americans."
Anheuser-Busch officials the company has a 150-year history of supporting the U.S. armed forces. Nearly 1 million service members and their families visited the company's parks without charge following the first Gulf War and during the Anheuser-Busch Salute to America's Heroes, a 9- 11 tribute that included all branches of the U.S. military.