Jack Daniels toasts troops

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Skoal! More than 200 volunteers took the opportunity to support the troops in Washington DC during the Jack Daniel’s-United Services Organizati­ons’ “Toast to the Troops” care package stuffing party.

Jack Daniel’s Distillery hosted the event in conjunction with the USO, which left the event with more than 10,000 care packages to send to troops through its USO Care Package Program. It’s not the first time the two organizations have paired up to toast the troops in this manner.

“We’ve done six of (these parties) at bases throughout the country,” said Elizabeth Conway, Jack Daniel’s public relations manager. “We include in each care package a personalized post card with a little message to the troops that we call a ‘Toast to the Troops.’”

“On the island I was on, we’d have been too glad to have one of those things, a little package like that,” said Bill Stang, a World War II Marine veteran.

Stang was referring to Guadalcanal, where he and his comrades served after participating in the initial landing on the island. He said they ran out of everything while they “existed” there.

He said he believes today’s troops will appreciate each box they get, though they might be just a bit disappointed.

“Each time they open one of those packages, they’re going to look for a little bottle of Jack Daniel’s, but it’s not going to be there!” he said with a laugh.

Another volunteer agreed with the potential for disappointment, but knows for a fact today’s troops will appreciate the other goodies.

“I know exactly what they need over there, and the stuff that I saw that was in the bags, it was like perfect,” said former Army Sgt. Michael Cain.

The former soldier, who lost his right leg below the knee when his vehicle hit an anti-tank mine in Tikrit, Iraq, on Aug. 7, 2003, is medically retired.

The Walter Reed Army Medical Center-outpatient traveled to Quantico to help pack boxes and said it was a great experience. “I love it so much,” Cain said, “just knowing that those guys are getting good stuff over there.”

The volunteers got good stuff, too. Jack Daniel’s provided a barbecue lunch and a concert as a thank you for their hard work.

Country music star Craig Morgan, an Army veteran with 11 years active-duty service and another six years reserve duty, helped pack boxes before he hit the stage to perform.

He said he met several wounded warriors who were volunteering and was touched by their stories.

“I have a great deal of respect for what the men and women in the armed services are going through these days,” the singer said. “I’m humbled by their presence and the pride that they take and their ability to carry on as if nothing’s happened. I don’t know how you can talk to these guys and not be motivated to do more.”

It’s not the first time Morgan has had the opportunity to participate in a Jack Daniels’ stuffing party. Of the six events the distillery’s hosted, Morgan’s been right there to flash his megawatt smile, joke with the crowd, and entertain fans with hits like, “That’s What I Love About Sunday.”

“They asked us and we volunteered, and we like it so much they can’t get rid of us,” Morgan said with a chuckle. “They would probably like to have another artist, but I won’t let anybody else come and do it.”

The USO is a supporter of America Support You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and companies with service-members and their families serving at home and abroad.

Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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