A Ton of Thanks to the U.S. Troops in Iraq

Back during World War II, coffee was considered so important to troop morale that the government reserved the entire production of the U.S. Nescafe plant for military use only. Not too long ago, San Bernadino food critic Cliff Young, known as the Minister of Culinary Awareness, started hearing from former employees at IE Coffee and GFE that they were hurting for good coffee. According to those emails, the coffee they were being served was undrinkable, and they were writing to the companies asking to buy coffee and have it shipped to them overseas in Iraq.

The situation was untenable in Young’s eyes. Using his radio show on KTIE 590 AM, Let’s Dine Out, as a platform, he sent out a request to friends in the coffee business in the San Bernadino area for help. His goal? To gather 2000 pounds of fresh roasted coffee to send out to the troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. He called his program Thanks a Ton, and set about gathering coffee beans.

That, however, proved to the easy part. He gathered the coffee – and then found it was almost impossible to get it shipped in that quantity overseas. Enter another KTIE radio personality. Tom Freeman, local talk radio host of a Sunday afternoon radio program, “Duty, Honor, Country” put out the challenge to friends and listeners. Freeman has a 23 year military background, and the radio show is focused on veterans and military issues. Getting coffee to our boys serving overseas was right up his alley. He called on some friends who came to the rescue with a brand new C-130 cargo transport and permission to ship. The coffee was loaded onto the transport by volunteers and arrived at its destination 21 hours later.

“It’s because of these brave young men and women serving our country that I can sit here and enjoy great coffee,” said Young.

Among the local coffee roasters who contributed to the effort were IE Coffee, Klatch Roasting, Beantrees Coffee and La Mill Coffee Company.

This isn’t the only effort of its kind, of course. Back in 2004, Starbucks teamed up with the Red Cross to deliver 50,000 pounds of whole coffee beans to soldiers stationed in Kuwait, Afghanistan and Iraq. At about the same time, a letter circulated on the Internet claiming that Starbucks had refused to donate coffee to the troops in Iraq because they did not support the war. Starbucks corporate headquarters responded with an explanation of their donation policy (they are only allowed to donate to 501(c)3 public charities), and explaining that many Starbucks employees had taken it upon themselves to donate Starbucks coffee to the military, either singly or as a store effort.

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