Following is a message to customers from Starbucks Armed Forces Network, an internal veteran group with more than 14 chapters across the country. They provide an additional layer of support for veterans, spouses and any Starbucks employee wanting to show support for those who have served the country.

Dear Starbucks customers,

We write to you today as representatives of the thousands of veterans and spouses who currently work for Starbucks Coffee Company, and to express our gratitude for your business as well as to address misinformation that has been circulating since our company announced their commitment to hire 10,00 refugees around the world.

Starbucks has received an outpouring of support for the actions our CEO Howard outlined. The company has also received criticism. While much of this discussion has been healthy debate, the false and inaccurate statements about Starbucks commitment to hiring veterans and spouses are deeply troubling to those of us who served. We’ve seen first-hand the hard work and dedication of our fellow employees to transform Starbucks into one of the preeminent veteran-friendly companies in America.

We the veterans of Starbucks would like to set the record straight.

As our armed forces drew down in 2013, veterans at Starbucks asked the company to consider hiring more service members as they transitioned from active duty and sought their first civilian job. We also asked the company to extend this effort to military spouses because we knew first-hand that their support made our service possible.

In November 2013, Howard and former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates announced Starbucks commitment to hire 10,000 veterans and military spouses over the next five years.

Perhaps more importantly, our boss not only launched this initiative but he inspired the company to become one of the leading corporate veteran advocates and supporters.

Howard and his wife Sheri visited military bases to get to know our nation’s service members. They poured substantial personal financial resources into their own family foundation to design plans for transitioning service members. Starbucks established military family stores at over 30 bases around the country. Howard encouraged Starbucks senior leaders to visit our military bases and get to know our military on a personal level, knowing it would lead them to hire more veterans and their spouses. And much, much more.

Less than four years into the commitment, Starbucks has hired over 8,800 veterans and spouses and counting.

Without question we will reach the 10,000 goal early, and we will keep going. None of this would have been possible without our boss’s very personal commitment. Howard didn’t just authorize our veteran initiative, he led it.

And so you can imagine our reaction when we read criticism of our company and of our CEO suggesting that instead of a commitment to refugees, we should instead hire 10,000 veterans.

We respect honest debate and the freedom of expression. Many of us served to protect that very right. Some of our brothers and sisters died protecting it. But to those who would suggest Starbucks is not committed to hiring veterans, we are here to say: check your facts, Starbucks is already there.

We want to thank you as our customers for your business. Without your support, our veterans initiatives are not possible. Every day, there are thousands of veterans, reservists and military spouses working at Starbucks stores serving you. You can find many of us proudly wearing American flags emblazoned upon our green aprons. And we look forward to continuing to serve you in the days, months and years to come.

With great respect,

The Men and Women of Starbucks Armed Forces Network (AFN)

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