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By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 15, 2008 - For the rest of this year, sitting in Shamu the killer whale's "splash zone" or talking turkey with a big yellow bird are just two activities servicemembers and their families can enjoy for free at Anheuser-Busch Adventure Parks.
Through its "Here's to the Heroes" program, which began in 2005, the brewing company is offering free tickets to its theme parks for servicemembers and up to three family members to thank them for all they do in service to the country.
"It's important to us for all the reasons you can probably predict," said Fred Jacobs, vice president of communications for Anheuser-Busch. "[This] is a great way for them to reconnect, particularly if they've been separated."
Jacobs knows the program is living up to the company's goals when he sees letters like one an airman wrote.
Air Force Master Sgt. Michael Huffman said in his letter that he didn't join the service for applause or to become a hero, but is simply serving his country as his father and grandfather did.
In his 26 years of service, Huffman said, he's seen the pendulum of public support swing from the more negative end of the spectrum to where it is today.
"I see the people express their support, and while I do appreciate it, I never really gave it much thought ... until I sat through the opening video of the whale show at Sea World," he said in the letter to Anheuser-Busch. "There before [everyone] was your CEO expressing his gratitude to me. Sure, it wasn't directed solely at me, ... [but] I felt a pride in serving that I had forgotten was in me. I had become so complacent.
"For that alone, I owe you thanks," Huffman added. "The free admission and opportunity to enjoy some high-quality family time was icing on the cake."
Active-duty servicemembers, activated or drilling reservists from all five branches of service, and National Guardsmen are eligible for the program.
All servicemembers need do is register online, print and sign the form and bring it with them. If the form can't be printed, it can be filled out upon arrival at the park. Every person over 10 participating in this program must present valid active-duty military or service identification.
Each pass is valid for a one-day admission per person per year to five of Anheuser-Busch's seven theme park brands. Visitors may choose Sea World Orlando, San Diego or San Antonio; Busch Gardens Tampa Bay or Williamsburg; Pennsylvania's Sesame Place; Florida's Adventure Island; or Virginia's Water Country USA. Discovery Cove and Aquatica parks are not included in this offer.
Anheuser-Bush is a corporate supporter of America Supports You, a Defense Department program connecting citizens and corporations with servicemembers and their families serving at home and abroad.