The event began with the Presentation of the Colors by The Joint Communications Support Element Color Guard, MacDill Air Force Base, in front of the original Outback Steakhouse, established in 1988 in Tampa, Fla. U.S. dignitaries on hand included Army Command Sgt. Maj. Marvin L. Hill, Army Command Sgt. Maj. Ron Pflieger, retired Army Maj. Gen. Richard Griffitts, and retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Arthur “Chip” Diehl III.
The Thanks for Giving program was launched in March. Diners were invited to assist Outback in its efforts to support the troops by ordering from a special Red, White and Bloomin' menu.
The company-wide initiative garnered national attention, including the endorsement of country music star and fellow military supporter, Tim McGraw; retired Army Gen. Tommy Franks, U.S. Central Command Commander; and retired Army Brig. Gen. John Howard.
"The sacrifices that our troops and their families make so that we can enjoy the freedoms we have in the U.S. is something Outback employees have recognized and appreciated since we opened our doors 22 years ago," Ms. Smith said. "As we express our sincere appreciation to those serving our country, we would also like to thank the countless Americans who rallied behind our Thanks for Giving program."
In June 2002, OSI launched Operation Feeding Freedom, sending a team of 15 Outbackers to Afghanistan to feed American troops stationed there. Since that trip, more than 100 members of the OSI team have made another six trips serving troops in Djibouti, Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait and aboard the USS Nimitz in Bahrain. Overall, 137,000 troops have been served at numerous bases and forward command locations.
"Our troops, veterans and their families need support now more than ever," Mr. Knotts said. "Outback's generous donation will help these dedicated individuals and wounded warriors carry on with life's essential needs as well as emergency situations."