FORT WALTON BEACH -- An airman at Colorado's Buckley Air Force Base is taking her desire for tasty chicken sandwiches directly to the president of the United States.
In a Change.org petition, Senior Airman Emily Carby asks President Donald Trump to bring Chick-fil-A to U.S. military bases. She calls Chick-fil-A "one of the most wholesome, happy and beloved fast food chains to exist in America today."
As of Wednesday morning the petition, also aimed at Chick-fil-A management, had gathered nearly 50,000 signatures in the week it's been posted. Signers include a mix of active-duty personnel, family members, veterans and other Chick-fil-A fans.
Locally, the sentiment of the petition, if not the petition itself, is attracting support from military personnel.
"I would actually like to have a Chick-fil-A on base," said an airman from Hurlburt Field who was eating lunch Monday with two other Hurlburt airmen at the Chick-fil-A on Beal Parkway.
All three spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to talk with the media.
Just one said he'd heard about the petition, but the trio's love for the fast-food restaurant was clear: They make the short drive from Hurlburt to Chick-fil-A at least once a week.
Asked for their favorite thing about Chick-fil-A, all three deadpanned, "chicken."
"And waffle fries," one added.
Matthew Sexton, manager of the Beal Parkway Chick-fil-A, said 63 percent of his customers are affiliated with local military installations. Sexton hadn't heard about the petition until Monday.
"For them to care so much is just so humbling," he said.
Chick-fil-A's corporate officials are aware of the petition, but are noncommittal about getting onto military bases.
"We are always exploring new opportunities to serve our customers, however, we have no plans to expand onto military bases at this time," the company's marketing agency said in a prepared statement. "We will continue to look for ways to serve great food and remarkable service while supporting the military locally with events such as Military Appreciation Night, in-restaurant commemorations and more."
Sexton, though, is optimistic that the petition could move Chick-fil-A toward military bases.
"This is unique," he said. "This is groundbreaking. Why not?"
Any decisions on Chick-fil-A will be made by the Army and Air Force Exchange Service, which operates more than 2,200 fast-food restaurants on military bases, including Subway, Church's Chicken and Captain D's. AAFES can bring restaurants to military bases either as contracted concessionaires or as facilities run directly by the Exchange.
"For direct-run restaurants, the Exchange is constantly looking for brands that appeal to military diners," spokeswoman Julie Mitchell said in an email. "The Exchange looks at industry trends and tries to find opportunities to sign on with brands that resonate."
AAFES declined detailed response to questions about why Chick-fil-A isn't on military bases, "deferring comment to Chick-fil-A."
Even if Chick-fil-A doesn't want to put brick-and-mortar restaurants on bases, it could send in food trucks, which it has operated since 2012, Sexton suggested.
"If there is a demand, figure out a way to make a supply," he said. ___
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