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McDonald's Salutes America's Armed Forces

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 22, 2002 – There's one touch of home that American GIs can find almost anywhere in the world. Whether they're in South Korea, the Philippines or the Balkans, there's a McDonald's somewhere nearby.

This month, McDonald's, one of America's best-known companies, is paying tribute to the nation's men and women in uniform.

McDonald's is conducting its National Salute to the Military, a program that kicked off in May to coincide with National Military Appreciation Month. The global restaurant chain is sponsoring a television entertainment special and partnering with the U.S. Air Force throughout the summer to raise awareness about the military at restaurants throughout the country.

"We feel that the men and women of the U.S. military are really unsung heroes," said McDonald's spokesman Steve Vihon. "They are very unselfishly going about protecting our freedoms and the lives we enjoy here in the United States." Often, he added, people take for granted what the troops do every day on our behalf.

On May 25, at 9 p.m. EST, CBS television will air a special sponsored by McDonald's. Academy Award-winning actor Cuba Gooding Jr., hosts "Rockin' for the U.S.A.: A National Tribute to the U.S. Military," featuring comedian Jeff Foxsworthy and singers Celine Dion, Marc Anthony, Clint Black, Jessica Simpson, Lonestar and MSM (formerly Miami Sound Machine).

CBS filmed the show May 4 aboard the USS Harry S. Truman during McDonald's Fleet Week and McDonald's Air & Sea Show in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. More than four million people turned out to attend Fleet Week events, according to company officials. The U.S. Army's Golden Knights Parachute Team dropped in to present an honorary baton to McDonald's USA President Mike Roberts for recognizing the armed forces with the national salute.

The television special includes a message from Roberts to the American people and to the nation's soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guard.

"We believe it's our duty and honor to show pride in the men and women who have served and are currently serving in our armed forces," Roberts said in statement. "We know that freedom isn't free. The National Salute is our way to say 'thanks' to the brave men and women who have dedicated their lives to protecting our freedoms and our American dreams. Our hope is that everyone in the U.S. armed forces knows how much we support you, appreciate you and thank you."

The company has also partnered with the Air Force to inform people about the service. A display entitled the "U.S. Air Force Experience" is slated to appear at McDonald's locations, schools and other retailers.

"The US Air Force Experience is a flight simulator that will give people the chance to become fighter pilots." Vihon said. "Some restaurants will also have a F-16 Fighting Falcon jet as part of the exhibit. We thought this was a great way to bring the McDonald's National Salute to the U.S. Military alive in some of our markets and make it a little more tangible.

"In each of those markets where the Air Force Experience appears," he added, "we're recommending that the restaurant have a Salute Rally where they can pay tribute to local heroes. They might invite community dignitaries, plus a color guard or ROTC unit, and pay tribute to hometown veterans or current service members."

The rallies, Vihon said, would continue to enhance the relationship between franchise owner/operators and their communities, "especially the men and women of the U.S. military who make up such a great portion of our communities across the country. Honoring the men and women of the military is very important to us because we share many of the same values: integrity, quality and growth and leadership opportunities at every level."

McDonald's officials are encouraging all franchise owner/operators and employees to sign America's Thank You note to the U.S. Military on www.DefendAmerica.gov, the Defense Department's website devoted to the war against terrorism.

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