Redeploying soldier running into the arms of his girlfriend – check. Banners, signs and cheers form the whole town – check. Surprise welcome home parade – check.
Shown during the Super Bowl – double check.
Every year we are on the lookout for military honors during America’s biggest sports, broadcast and advertising event. Even if you thought the game itself was boring (or are feeling very sad because your team lost miserably), you gotta hand it to them – they do military tributes right.
First we had a joint-force choir, including the USAF Sing Sergeants, backing up Renee Fleming during the National Anthem (new contender for best anthem performance ever? I think so). Then they showed deployed servicemembers in Afghanistan. Then there was the flyover by US Army helos (see a video from one of the cockpits here!). Then there was the 30 seconds of servicemember greetings during Bruno Mars’ halftime performance.
But the Budweiser commercial took the cake. And I don’t mean the one with the cute puppy.
Budweiser partnered the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) to surprise a redeployment soldier with a homecoming parade. They solicited applications via the VFW’s website. Army girlfriend and Senate staffer Shannon Cantwell nominated her soon to return Fort Rucker based Army boyfriend, Lt. Charles Nadd, for the honor. He was returning from an 8-month deployment to Afghanistan.
According to this story, Nadd had been told by his commanding officer that he was flying to his hometown of Winter Park, Fla. Jan. 8 to speak to the VFW. He was planning to meet his girlfriend at the airport. He was not expecting what happened next.
Instead of driving home and speaking to the VFW, he was met by banners, confetti and an honest-to-God parade.
The minute-long commercial, which aired during the second half of the Super Bowl, is touching. But the behind-the-scenes video is gut wrenching.
When Budweiser worked with the VFW to set this whole thing up, what they got was the perspective of a lot of veterans who not only didn’t have a welcome home parade, but instead had scorn.
“Every now and then someone will come up and say ‘thank you,’ and it really means a lot because we didn’t get it when we came home,” Jim Pope, a Vietnam veteran says in the video.
But it was veteran Dave Caroll who really got me.
“We didn’t tell anyone we were in Vietnam. And that’s why … ” And that’s pretty much all he got out before starting crying and waved the camera away.
Sure, this whole thing made feel overwhelming proud of my own servicemember and of America in general. But that wasn’t the biggest thing I took away.
Some have called this “marketing brilliance.” I don’t know about that. What I do know is that, like the folks in the behind the scenes video said, this made me want to say "thank you."
“America needs to understand what this represents. You ask ‘do you know someone who served in Iraq and Afghanistan?’ typically the answer is going to be ‘no.’” said John Hamilton, a Vietnam Veteran. “So it doesn’t affect them personally so they tend to forget. Not that they don’t care. America does care.”