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Wal-Mart, VFW Donating $50,000 to Troop-Support Program for Wounded
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 service members who are recuperating at nearby Walter Reed Army Medical Center and National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
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 O'Brien's.
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 cost of nearly $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. "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 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 is also 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.
Wal-Mart has 3,200 employees serving on military leave. Besides continuing their employee benefits and helping with the salary differentials, Wal-Mart has provided millions of dollars in financial aid to military family-support organizations that help supply clothing for the wounded and special-need items for the troops. In addition, Wal-Mart's customers nationwide have sent hundreds of thousands of messages of support to military men and women through in-store kiosks.