A national company's program offering free amusement park tickets to the nation's troops and their families has become so popular it will be extended another year.
Anheuser-Busch began the program, called "Here's to the Heroes," in February 2005. The company had planned to end it early this year, said Fred Jacobs, communications director for Anheuser-Busch adventure parks.
"We recognize that this is a very difficult time, and we wanted to let (the troops) know that our company appreciates their service, their commitment to the country," Jacobs said. "It just happens that one of the most meaningful things that we can give to the servicemembers is free admission to our parks. So it's lucky that we're in the theme park business. It allows us to deliver something meaningful to families."
The program is open to active duty servicemembers, active members of the Reserve or National Guard, and up to three direct dependents for one complimentary admission per year. Participants can go online to fill out a form for free admission at www.herosalute.com.
The amusement parks participating in the program include:
- "Sea World" parks in Orlando, Fla., San Diego and San Antonio;
- "Busch Gardens" parks in Tampa, Fla., and Williamsburg, Va.;
- "Sesame Place," a children's play and water park, near Philadelphia;
- "Adventure Island" water park in Tampa; and
- "Water Country USA" water park in Williamsburg.
Jacobs said over 900,000 people took advantage of the program in 2005, and awareness is only growing. He expects a total of 2 million participants by this year's end.
A lot of reservists are taking part in the program, which is great to see, he said. "We know that (service in the reserves) requires a commitment that is serious and praiseworthy, and it was important to us to open up the program to them," he said, noting that reservists and National Guard troops often now deploy overseas alongside their active duty colleagues.
Anheuser-Busch has a long history supporting the troops, Jacobs said. The company has supported scholarship funds, parties for troops, and other projects. It is also a corporate member of "America Supports You," a Defense Department initiative facilitating grassroots and corporate support for America's troops and their families.
"We get probably something on the order of 300 or 400 e-mails, letters and calls on this a week, and some of those are really very touching," he said. "If anybody takes away from the experience that this company appreciates what they're doing, then we've kind of done our job."
For complete details, visit the Here's to the Heroes website.