By Marty Skovlund, Jr.
A green beret with double digit deployments. An Army Ranger who has more combat night raids under his belt than he can count. An Air Force Joint Terminal Air Controller (JTAC) who called in air strikes under fire in some of the most brutal battles of the Iraq war. Two Marine Scout Snipers, Air Force fighter pilots, Army mechanics … the list goes on.
This isn’t a list of combat veterans at your local VFW. It’s a small sampling of the leadership and employees at Black Rifle Coffee — a company that doesn’t just hire veterans, but was founded and is led by veterans. A company that I’m proud to be a part of.
At only five years in, the company has moved quickly from scrappy start up in the founders’ garage to hundreds of employees in multiple locations across the country who are serving coffee and culture on a scale that is second to none in the direct to consumer market. That’s no small feat and we’re all proud of how much has been accomplished in such a short period of time, but we haven’t forgotten where we came from either.
In 2018, we donated tens of thousands of pounds of coffee to American service members serving around the world. This year, through efforts like our Buy A Bag, Give A Bag initiative this holiday season, we’re on pace to do even more. But this isn’t just another case of corporate philanthropy; for us, it’s personal.
When we send coffee over, it’s going to the infantry squad leader in Afghanistan who served with one of our coffee roasters. It’s going to the special operator hitting targets in Syria who served alongside our executive vice president in Iraq 13 years ago. It’s going to the A-10 pilot that kept Taliban fighters at bay back in 2010 while Marines on the ground maneuvered. One of those Marines now works in our marketing department; that pilot is on another deployment.
It’s going to the soldier with blisters on his feet and calluses on his hands staring out into the dark Afghan night. To the humble Marine who is still lacing up combat boots every morning, picking up their rifle, and heading into the unknown. To the overworked, underpaid sailor who is spending yet another long day in the bowels of a ship, trying to sleep in bunks stacked five high. It’s going to the airman donning her flight suit on a lonely airfield in a faraway land, away from her family during the holidays … yet again.
Our coffee goes to the people who matter most to us.
Of course, we know our coffee isn’t going to make combat any easier, make the equipment one carries on a mission weigh any less, or make coping with the death of friends any more manageable. But I can tell you first hand what it does for morale to hear your name called during mail call on deployment. I can tell you what it’s like to tear open a care package like a kid on Christmas morning, and find more than the usual toothpaste and bars of soap. I can tell you what it’s like to sit in your hooch after a combat mission, too tired to move and too emotionally drained to care … just sipping coffee in silence. I can tell you that I know my experience wasn’t unique, and that many service members around the world feel the same way.
That’s why we do what we do. That’s why we don’t wait until Veterans Day or Memorial Day to remember those who served or are still serving. That’s why we care about the quality of the product we sell. That’s why I work at Black Rifle Coffee Company, if I’m being honest.
We have our work cut out for us though. More than 170,000 American service members are currently deployed to more than 150 countries around the world. Many will be away from home for months or even years at a time, and some can’t even tell their families where they’re deployed to. If we can, we’re going to put a cup of our coffee in every one of their hands at least once while their deployed.
But we need your help to get us there. We’re not a big company, and we can’t do it on our own. Buy a bag of Black Rifle Coffee, and we’ll give a bag to a deployed service member.
Marty Skovlund, Jr. is an eight-year Army veteran and the executive editor of Black Rifle Coffee Company’s CoffeeOrDie.com. As a journalist, Marty has covered the Standing Rock protest in North Dakota, embedded with American Special Forces in Afghanistan, and has broken stories about the first females to make it through infantry training and Ranger selection. He has also published two books, co-hosted History Channel’s JFK Declassified, and has produced multiple award-winning independent films.
OP-ED: Veteran's Day 2019
By George Lutz
Fourteen years ago, I considered myself a typical American. I wasn’t any more or less patriotic than the next person. I flew an American flag and I was proud of my country. But I gave no thought to the men and women who served and sacrificed in our military. Let’s be honest, we all want to go about our lives doing the things that we enjoy without bothering anyone else around us — just enjoying our freedoms without thought.
My son Tony joined the army in the spring of 2003 and being that typical American, I certainly supported his decision. I told him to be careful and that I was proud of him. He was old enough to make his own choices, so I hugged him and sent him on to serve his country. As a military family, we decided to put yellow ribbons on all the trees outside, because that’s what you did. But that didn’t make me think any more about the thousands who decided to serve before him. It was nothing extra special to me, it was his job.
But something happened while I was living this life of a typical American. My son wasn’t coming home. He was killed on the battlefield in Iraq and would never walk through our front door again. Something had happened that my family couldn’t have planned for. My world was rocked and my family was devastated.
From that moment, every day became important. Every holiday, birthday, anniversary became more significant because he was now a memory. And of course, Memorial Day and Veterans Day, two days that previously I never gave a second thought, became much more meaningful.
As a grieving father, I went on a quest to find out how Americans remember loved ones lost in military service. What things do we do? What words do we say? What visuals do we display? What I found was quite surprising: we had nothing specific. What my research uncovered was that there wasn’t much that specifically represented those who gave their lives or the Gold Star families they left behind.
We do a lot as Americans for military men and women we can see or touch … those in active duty, the medal recipients, the wounded and others. But when it comes to tangibly remembering the fallen, we set aside one day: Memorial Day. Interesting, there are studies that have found that between 50 and 80 percent of Americans do not know why Memorial Day exists. However, to the family of a fallen hero, every day is Memorial Day.
That brings us to Veterans Day. Consider this little known fact: Veterans Day is not just about living veterans, it is also about those men and women who would have been veterans had they not died in service to America. Their families observe Veterans Day differently. Their only wish on Veterans Day is that their loved ones be remembered.
In my journey as a father who prayed that the loss of his son was not in vain, I made it my mission to find a way for the sacrifice of those selfless men and women to be perpetually appreciated — a tangible message that expresses gratitude for giving all for the freedoms we enjoy as Americans.
It was with that purpose in mind that the Honor and Remember flag was created. My hope was that the flag would be established as our nation’s specific symbol of remembrance. It is a symbol that simply declares every day: Thank you, we will never forget. It is a message that not only recognizes those that didn’t come home, but also pays tribute to those families and friends who are still with us who will grieve for the rest of their lives.
Gen. George Patton once said, “Let us not mourn that such men died but let us rejoice that such men lived.” On this Veterans Day, one of the most important things we can do as Americans is never forget all of those who served our nation in military service, including those who didn’t come home.
GEORGE LUTZ, Founder, Honor and Remember/Father of Fallen Soldier
George Lutz is the founder and executive director of Honor and Remember Inc., a non-profit organization dedicated to perpetually recognizing our fallen Military heroes and their families. Through the creation of the Honor and Remember Flag the organization’s mission is to establish a public national symbol that recognizes with gratitude and respect the men and women who died in military service to America. Further goals include broad national awareness and education of the flag’s meaning and importance and to present personalized Honor and Remember Flags to the immediate families of all our nation’s fallen. George is the father of Corporal Tony Lutz, who was killed in Iraq in 2005 and who is the inspiration for the Honor and Remember Flag.
To learn more, visit www.HonorAndRemember.org
TRUMP: ‘Today We Come Together as One Nation to Salute the Veterans’
President Trump addressed New York City’s annual Veteran’s Day Parade Monday; saying the period of remembrance and gratitude is meant to honor “the greatest warriors ever to walk the face of the Earth.”
“Today, we come together as one Nation to salute the Veterans of the United States Armed Forces – the greatest warriors ever to walk on the face of the Earth. Our Veterans risked everything for us. Now, it is our duty to serve and protect THEM every day of our lives!” posted the President on social media.
Today, we come together as one Nation to salute the Veterans of the United States Armed Forces – the greatest warriors ever to walk on the face of the Earth. Our Veterans risked everything for us. Now, it is our duty to serve and protect THEM every day of our lives! pic.twitter.com/vC3UGvWF9S
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 11, 2019
The 11-11 Pledge is a nationwide effort to inspire a renewed spirit toward the true meaning of Veterans Day, 11-11, and to honor and appreciate our veterans in a meaningful and memorable way like never before, from classrooms to corporations to communities.
Building Homes for Heroes began the 11-11 Pledge in 2018 to unite our country behind our heroes on our nation’s only holiday devoted to our veterans. All it takes is $11 to make a difference in the lives of wounded veterans and their families. In honor of Veterans Day, the organization will gift 11 homes in 11 weeks for the second straight year across the country. Of these homes, nine are Purple Heart recipients and two have received the Silver Star. It’s an accomplishment that the organization plans to do again next year and every year.
“The goal of the 11-11 Pledge is to generate a renewed enthusiasm and revival across the country of the true meaning and spirit of Veterans Day, so children and students in elementary school, middle school, high schools and universities, and all Americans from sea to shining sea will be unified under a sense of patriotism and compassion for all,” said Building Homes for Heroes Founder Andy Pujol. “What more beautiful way to honor all the heroic men and women who have sacrificed so much for our great country?”