Starbucks Refused Free Coffee to U.S. Marines in Iraq, Saying They Don’t Support War: Facts

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Starbucks Refused Free Coffee to U.S. Marines in Iraq, Saying They Don't Support War


Starbucks refused free coffee to U.S. Marines serving in Iraq, saying the company does not support the War and anyone in it.


The message circulating online since a decade states that the coffee giant Starbucks has refused free product to the U.S. Marine troops serving in Iraq, saying the company does not support the War and anyone in it. The claims are unfounded.


These claims to boycott Starbucks became popular online back in 2004 after a US Marines Sergeant, Howard C. Wright wrote the below email to some of his friends:

Dear everyone,

Please pass this along to anyone you know, this needs to get out in the open.
Recently Marines over in Iraq supporting this country in OIF wrote to Starbucks because they wanted to let them know how much they liked their coffee and try to score some free coffee grounds. Starbucks wrote back telling the Marines thanks for their support in their business, but that they don’t support the War and anyone in it and that they won’t send them the Coffee.

So as not to offend them we should not support in buying any Starbucks products. As a War vet and writing to you patriots I feel we should get this out in the open. I know this War might not be very popular with some folks, but that doesn’t mean we don’t support the boys on the ground fighting street to street and house to house for what they and I believe is right. If you feel the same as I do then pass this along, or you can discard it and I’ll never know. Thanks very much for your support to me, and I know you’ll all be there again here soon when I deploy once more.

Semper Fidelis,
Sgt Howard C. Wright
1st Force Recon Co
1st Plt PLT RTO

Starbucks’ Response

It is not clear if Starbucks has ever refused to donate free coffee to U.S. Marines serving in Iraq, who asked for it — saying they do not support the war and anyone in it. But in response to the question mentioned below, Starbucks stated that their company policy restricts corporate donations to the beneficiaries that fall under the definition of “public charities,” which the military does not:

Q: “I heard that when a U.S. marine stationed in Iraq asked Starbucks for a donation of coffee, your company refused because it doesn’t support the war or the troops. Is this true?”

A: Starbucks donates to nonprofit organizations that are designated as public charities under Section 501(c)(3) of the IRS code. The U.S. military and individual military personnel do not qualify as a public charity, and therefore we do not make corporate donations to them. However, in times of major conflict, as we are now experiencing in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are proud to give coffee to U.S. troops through our partnership with the American Red Cross. In November 2004, we announced a donation of 50,000 pounds (22,680 kilograms) of coffee to the American Red Cross for distribution to troops serving in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait. We believe it is important to support those who are willing to risk their lives and preserve our freedoms and security. Moreover, on an individual, grassroots level, many of our partners have made personal donations to military personnel or military units, including their weekly pound of free coffee they receive as an employee benefit. We are very proud of the many donations our partners have made.

After the email went viral online, Starbucks contacted the Marine Sergeant, who subsequently sent a retraction email, in which he took back his words and apologized:

Dear Readers,

Almost 5 months ago I sent an e-mail to you my faithful friends. I did a wrong thing that needs to be cleared up. I heard by word of mouth about how Starbucks said they didn’t support the war and all. I was having enough of that kind of talk and didn’t do my research properly like I should have. This is not true. Starbucks supports men and women in uniform. They have personally contacted me and I have been sent many copies of their company’s policy on this issue. So I apologize for this quick and wrong letter that I sent out to you.

Now I ask that you all pass this email around to everyone you passed the last one to.

Thank you very much for understanding about this.

Howard C. Wright
1st Force Rcon Co
1st Plt PLT RTO

Dated: August 17, 2004

So it appears like the original claim of the sergeant was the result of misinformation. In its official response to the rumor, Starbucks also explains that they have the deepest respect and admiration for U.S. military personnel. In fact, the U.S. Department of Defense ( reported in November 2004 saying, “Starbucks and the American Red Cross are teaming up to deliver hot java to U.S. service members serving overseas in the war against global terrorism“. To conclude, the story is an old rumor that keeps resurfacing online in various versions.

Hoax or Fact:


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Prashanth Damarla