The relationship between Starbucks and the U.S. military has been a controversial topic for years. Many accuse the coffee giant of being unpatriotic and not supporting American troops. But is this reputation deserved?

This comprehensive 3000-word analysis will examine Starbucks’ policies, actions, and statements regarding the military to reveal the truth.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: Starbucks has not explicitly stated that they don’t support the troops. However, they did request in a memo that customers not bring firearms into their stores, even if they have a permit. This upset some gun rights and pro-military groups.

Starbucks later clarified that they do honor and respect all customers, including active military members.

The Open Carry Controversy

The Open Carry Controversy refers to the 2013 incident where Starbucks made a request for customers not to bring guns into their stores. This sparked a heated debate surrounding the issue of open carry and the Second Amendment rights.

The 2013 ‘Please Don’t Bring Guns’ Request

In response to a growing number of customers openly carrying firearms in their stores, Starbucks released a statement in 2013 asking customers to refrain from bringing guns into their establishments, even in states where open carry is legal.

This request was seen by some as a stance against the Second Amendment and an infringement on their right to bear arms.

However, it’s important to note that Starbucks did not outright ban guns from their stores. The company’s CEO, Howard Schultz, stated that the request was made to create a safe and welcoming environment for all customers, regardless of their stance on gun control.

Backlash from Pro-Gun and Pro-Military Groups

Following Starbucks’ request, there was a significant backlash from pro-gun and pro-military groups. Many argued that Starbucks was taking a political position and not supporting the troops by asking customers not to bring guns into their stores.

Some even called for a boycott of the popular coffee chain.

However, it’s important to understand that Starbucks’ request was not specifically targeting the military. The request was made in response to concerns about the presence of firearms in public spaces, and the potential for conflicts or accidents to occur.

Starbucks’ Clarification and Response

Amid the controversy, Starbucks released a clarification statement to address the concerns raised by pro-gun and pro-military groups. The company reiterated that their request was not a ban on guns, but rather a request for customers to voluntarily refrain from bringing firearms into their stores.

Starbucks also emphasized their support for the military and pledged to provide free coffee to active-duty military personnel and veterans on Veterans Day. This gesture was seen as an attempt to reaffirm their commitment to supporting the troops, despite the initial backlash they received.

It’s worth noting that Starbucks’ stance on open carry has since evolved. In 2019, the company announced a new policy that prohibits any person from openly carrying firearms in their stores, regardless of local laws.

This decision was made in response to several high-profile incidents involving guns in public places.

Other Policies Regarding the Military

Starbucks, despite some controversy, has implemented several policies to show support for the military and veterans. These policies demonstrate the company’s commitment to honoring and assisting those who have served their country.

Offering Free Coffee to Service Members

One of the ways Starbucks supports the military is by offering free coffee to service members. On Veterans Day, Starbucks locations across the United States provide a complimentary tall brewed coffee to active-duty military personnel, veterans, and their spouses.

This gesture is a small way for Starbucks to express its gratitude for the sacrifices made by members of the armed forces.

Hiring Veterans and Military Spouses

Starbucks is also dedicated to hiring veterans and military spouses. The company actively recruits individuals who have served in the military and provides them with job opportunities. Starbucks recognizes the unique skills and experiences that veterans bring to the workplace and values their contributions.

By hiring veterans and military spouses, Starbucks aims to support their transition into civilian life and provide them with fulfilling career opportunities.

Partnering with Hire Heroes USA

In addition to hiring veterans, Starbucks has partnered with organizations like Hire Heroes USA. This non-profit organization helps military members, veterans, and military spouses find employment opportunities.

Starbucks works closely with Hire Heroes USA to provide job training, resume assistance, and networking opportunities to those seeking employment. This partnership demonstrates Starbucks’ commitment to not only hiring veterans but also supporting their successful integration back into civilian life.

Military Appreciation Nights

Starbucks also holds Military Appreciation Nights at select locations. These special events are designed to provide a space for veterans, active-duty military personnel, and their families to come together and connect.

Starbucks partners with local military organizations to host these events, which often include live music, guest speakers, and opportunities for veterans to share their stories. These Military Appreciation Nights serve as a way for Starbucks to show its appreciation and support for the military community.

Philanthropic Efforts Benefiting the Military

Starbucks, a globally recognized coffee chain, has been actively involved in philanthropic efforts benefiting the military. The company understands the sacrifices made by the troops and is committed to showing support and gratitude for their service.

Through various initiatives, Starbucks has made a significant impact on the lives of military personnel and their families.

Donating Coffee to Troops Overseas

One way Starbucks supports the troops is by donating coffee to those serving overseas. The company recognizes the importance of a good cup of coffee in boosting morale and providing comfort in challenging environments.

By partnering with organizations like Operation Gratitude, Starbucks ensures that troops stationed abroad receive a taste of home and a small reminder of the appreciation for their service.

Supporting the USO

Starbucks also collaborates with the United Service Organizations (USO) to support military personnel and their families. The USO is a nonprofit organization that provides various programs and services to servicemen and women, including entertainment, support during deployments, and transition assistance.

Starbucks contributes to the USO’s efforts through financial support and by volunteering at events organized by the organization.

Raising Funds on Veterans Day

On Veterans Day, Starbucks takes an active role in honoring and supporting veterans. The company donates a portion of its sales on this day to organizations that provide resources and assistance to veterans.

These funds help support programs focused on mental health, employment opportunities, and educational resources for veterans transitioning to civilian life. By raising awareness and contributing financially, Starbucks demonstrates its commitment to the well-being of those who have served in the military.

Starbucks’ Statements Supporting the Military

Starbucks, the well-known coffee giant, has often faced criticism regarding its stance on supporting the military. However, a closer look at their statements and actions reveals a different story. Let’s examine some key instances where Starbucks has shown support for the military.

Reaffirming Commitment to Hiring Veterans

In 2013, Starbucks made a significant commitment to hire 10,000 veterans and military spouses by 2018. This initiative aimed to provide employment opportunities for those who have served their country.

As part of this commitment, Starbucks partnered with organizations like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes program and the Schultz Family Foundation to help veterans find jobs and transition into the civilian workforce.

Furthermore, Starbucks has implemented various programs to support veterans in their careers, such as the “Military Family Stores” initiative. These stores are run by veterans and military spouses, providing them with valuable leadership and management experience.

By actively recruiting and empowering veterans, Starbucks demonstrates its dedication to supporting the military community.

Responding to Boycott Over Refugee Hiring

In 2017, Starbucks faced backlash and a boycott from some individuals who opposed their hiring efforts aimed at refugees. Critics claimed that Starbucks was prioritizing refugees over veterans. However, the company quickly responded by reaffirming its commitment to hiring veterans and clarifying that their initiatives were not at the expense of the military community.

Starbucks CEO, Kevin Johnson, stated, “We will neither stand by, nor stand silent when the security of our people and their families is put at risk.” This response emphasized that Starbucks supports both veterans and refugees, recognizing the value and contributions of both groups.

Supporting Post-9/11 Veterans

Starbucks actively supports post-9/11 veterans through various initiatives. One such initiative is the “Starbucks Armed Forces Network” (AFN), which is a community of partners (employees) who have served or are currently serving in the military.

AFN provides a platform for veterans to connect, support each other, and advocate for the military community within Starbucks.

Additionally, Starbucks has collaborated with organizations like Team Red, White, and Blue (RWB) to support post-9/11 veterans’ physical and social well-being. Through events like the “Run As One” 5K, Starbucks encourages veterans to participate and build a sense of camaraderie.

Why the Controversy and Confusion?

Starbucks, the popular coffee chain, found itself at the center of a controversy surrounding its support for the troops. The issue arose due to a combination of factors, including the politically polarized climate, the risks of taking a public stance, and unclear messaging from Starbucks.

A Politically Polarized Climate

In recent years, the United States has become increasingly politically polarized. This polarization has extended to various aspects of society, including consumer brands. Starbucks, being a prominent and widely recognized brand, has not been immune to this division.

In such a climate, any public statement or action by a company can be interpreted through a political lens, leading to controversy and confusion.

For instance, some individuals who identify as conservative may perceive Starbucks’ support for social causes as aligned with liberal ideologies. This perception, in turn, can lead to the assumption that Starbucks does not support the troops, despite any evidence to the contrary.

Similarly, those who identify as liberal may view any criticism of Starbucks as an attack on progressive values, further fueling the controversy.

The Risks of Taking a Public Stance

Publicly supporting or not supporting a particular cause can have significant implications for a company. In an era of heightened social consciousness and activism, consumers increasingly expect brands to take a stand on important societal issues.

However, this comes with risks, as taking a public stance can alienate certain segments of the population and potentially impact the bottom line.

For Starbucks, a company that prides itself on its inclusive values, navigating this terrain can be particularly challenging. While they have made efforts to support veterans and military families through initiatives like the Starbucks Armed Forces Network and partnerships with organizations like Team Red, White & Blue, there are instances where their messaging may not have been clear enough to counteract the controversy.

Unclear Messaging from Starbucks

One of the factors contributing to the confusion surrounding Starbucks’ support for the troops is the company’s messaging. While Starbucks has publicly expressed gratitude for the military and veterans, some consumers have interpreted certain actions or statements as contradictory.

For example, in 2013, a viral social media post falsely claimed that Starbucks refused to provide free coffee to Marines serving in Afghanistan. Despite the company’s prompt response debunking the claim, the damage was already done, and the misinformation continued to circulate.

Such instances of misinterpretation and misinformation can add to the confusion and perpetuate the belief that Starbucks does not support the troops.


In summary, while Starbucks’ request for customers not to openly carry firearms in their stores upset some pro-military groups, the company has not explicitly stated an opposition to the U.S. military.

On the contrary, Starbucks has taken many actions to support active service members, veterans, and military families, from hiring initiatives to philanthropic projects.

The confusion stems primarily from a polarized political climate and Starbucks’ desire to avoid controversy. Their poorly communicated open carry policy created misconceptions about their support for the military.

But judging by their overall record, it appears Starbucks does care about the troops, even if they aren’t vocal advocates.

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