The Jack Daniel Distillery and the Armed Services YMCA recently announced that more than 1,700 junior-enlisted service members and families will be headed home for the holidays to see loved ones through their “Operation Ride Home” program.

This year marks a significant milestone in the program’s history, with the largest number of service members and families traveling home.

Now in its 11th year, the program provides financial assistance to active-duty, junior-enlisted military and their families to travel from their base of duty to loved ones’ homes across the country.

Operation Ride Home (image via Jack Daniel’s)

Including this year’s travelers, more than 10,000 people have made it home through Operation Ride Home. Service men and women from the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard have been assisted with travel to all 50 states.

“These heroes are on the front lines, protecting us and protecting our liberties, and we are absolutely thrilled they’ll get to reunite with their loved ones this year,” said Chris Fletcher, Jack Daniel’s master distiller, in a prepared statement. “Providing some financial assistance to see that they make it home is the least we can do, and I can only imagine the hugs, the tears, the joy and the laughter when these reunions take place.”

Armed Services YMCA President and CEO Bill French said that due to the pandemic and military travel ban, they weren’t able to activate Operation Ride Home last year.

“But we made it our goal to send even more heroes home for the holidays when it was safe to do so. That day is here, and we are on track to accomplish our goal,” he said. “I’ve been there, and I know the stress of military life on both the service member and the family, and it’s only been made worse by the pandemic. No one deserves to be home more than they do, and we hope our friends will join us as we work to get even more families reunited this holiday season.”

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As it has throughout Operation Ride Home, Jack Daniel’s kicked off this year’s campaign with a $100,000 donation and is asking others to go online to operationridehome.com and contribute to help even more service members make it home.

The Armed Services YMCA works with various military commands in specific areas co-located with their branches to identify and prioritize junior-enlisted service members and families most in financial need. Plane tickets and pre-paid debit cards are given to assist those traveling.

Operation Ride Home is open to active-duty E-5 and below, both single and married, who might not otherwise financially be able to travel home. The option to drive or fly is an individual decision.

For more information on eligibility and to view participating installations that qualify for travel assistance, check out https://www.asymca.org/operation-ride-home.