WASHINGTON -- Secretary of the Navy and acting Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England honored the president and chief operating officer of McDonald's during a July 25 Pentagon ceremony for providing "super-sized" support for America's men and women in uniform.
Secretary England presented Michael Roberts the Distinguished Public Service Award, calling him "hugely supportive" of the troops and praising him for "setting the tenor," not just for McDonald's Corp., but for all of corporate America.
McDonald's joined the Defense Department's "America Supports You" program in March, becoming one of its major corporate sponsors. Since then, the company has played a leading role in bringing recognition to the program while continuing its long-term support for the troops and military veterans.
Secretary England detailed that support during the Pentagon ceremony, noting that McDonald's is a leading supporter of Armed Forces Week and Fleet Week, was instrumental in establishing a National Salute to the Military associated with the annual Fort Lauderdale Air and Sea Show, and sponsored a nationally broadcast Armed Forces Day concert that reached millions of Americans.
In addition, Secretary England credited Roberts for his leadership in bringing together national and local business leaders, organizations such as the Navy League and Veterans of Foreign Wars and members of the military -- active and reserve components alike -- to showcase the U.S. military's capabilities.
McDonald's also offers career opportunities to disabled servicemembers and military veterans, he said.
"They're just a great corporate citizen and a great supporter of the U.S. military," Secretary England said. "Across the board, they do a great job."
And in doing so, Secretary England said, they're setting the tone for the rest of the country. "This is what we expect of our corporations," he said.
Nationwide, companies large and small are stepping up to the plate, supporting the nation's troops in a wide variety of ways, England noted. Some make up any pay cuts their reserve-component employees face when called to active duty; others run special programs for military families or promotions for service members.
"I thank all those corporations for what they do for our men and women in uniform," England said.
But while corporate support for the troops is important, it's the people within those companies, like Roberts, who really make the difference, Secretary England said. The citation he presented to Roberts noted that his leadership "has been vital to the military's effort to educate and inspire the American people and pay tribute to those who serve and defend freedom."
Secretary England called the awards ceremony "an opportunity for us to say thank you, on behalf of all our men and women in uniform, to McDonald's Corp., and specifically Mike Roberts, for his great, great work," he said.
Roberts said he and his employees, many of whom served in the military, "take great pride in knowing that the company they work for recognizes the enormous sacrifices (service members) have made in their lives in order to protect America."
He expressed gratitude for troops who "go out in a very hostile world," noting the high cost of freedom.
"Freedom isn't free," and America's troops "are paying an enormous price so that we can stand here today and enjoy the fruits of freedom," Roberts said. "We are proud to be associated with them."
Roberts said it's important to make sure troops get that message and to stand up and say, "We appreciate what you do each and every day."
"They are heroes in all of our minds," Roberts said of U.S. service members. "And we take this opportunity today once again to say we appreciate them for the sacrifices they make."