When I was deployed to Iraq, I was single. Now that I am married with a kid, I cannot fathom the internal torture my wife would have endured. We sign up to fight; our families do not.

As we celebrate Veterans Day, it’s important to recognize the families and their sacrifices.

Many distilleries help veteran charities. Buffalo Trace, Bulleit, Evan Williams, Jim Beam, Wild Turkey and many others all have former or active veteran programs. The bourbon industry is highly philanthropic toward veteran causes, perhaps one reason why I love the category so much.

One I’d like to highlight this year is Jack Daniel’s efforts with Operation Ride Home, in which they provide financial assistance and travel aid to junior-enlisted military and their family. (E1-E4s don’t make a lot of money and travel can get one in debt easily.)

This year, Jack Daniel donated $100,000 to help families get home for the holidays. In total, they’ve helped 2,669 junior enlisted single service members and those with families – for 5,767 people – travel from their bases to homes around the country. That’s men and women from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard traveling to 47 of the 50 states.

I recently chatted with Jeff Arnet, the Jack Daniel’s master distiller, about the program, and he said it’s one of the most-important activities he does all year, because families are often stranded at the base and cannot get home. The government doesn’t cover the cost of dependent travel, so the holidays can be extremely expensive.

An E-2 with less than two years of service earns less than $1,800 a month. Housing allowances and dependent kickers help, but they still typically make less than $30,000. And having served, I know of many 19-year-old privates, married with kids, who spent all their money and then couldn’t get home. It’s a serious situation in the military.

Arnet said in a press release: “Words can’t describe what it means for us to be able to give back and help these heroes and their families make it home for the holidays. We can’t thank our friends enough for their support of Operation Ride Home over the years, and hope they will once again do what they can as we try to get as many families home as possible.  The sacrifice shown daily by our men and women in uniform and their families is simply incredible.  They are there for us, and we need to be there for them.”

Jack Daniel has worked with the Armed Services YMCA since 2011.

Check out past bourbon veteran stories.

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