How A Fast-Food Phenomenon Was Started As a Service to Servicemen

The soldiers at Fort Huachuca had a problem. Their duties frequently had them traveling off base at meal times, and it was hard to get a good meal.

It’s not that there was any shortage of restaurants. The nearby community of Sierra Vista in south Arizona offered plenty of dining establishments. The thing that stood between the soldiers and their lunch was their uniforms.

At the start of the 20th century, the soldiers at Fort Huachuca developed a bit of a reputation for uncivilized conduct during their off-duty hours. For that reason, the Fort commander implemented a standing order that no soldier was to appear in business establishments while wearing the uniform. By 1975, the discipline of the Fort’s personnel had improved dramatically, but the no-uniform regulation remained on the books.

This posed a problem for hungry soldiers. If they wanted to avail themselves of any of the local restaurants, it required a wardrobe change. For the men who had a limited time to grab a bite, a change of attire was more trouble than it was worth.

Restaurant manager David Rich recognized the soldiers’ dilemma and came up with a plan that would feed the troops and hopefully boost his sales. He cut a hole in the side of the building and installed a sliding glass window. He let it be known throughout Fort Huachuca that any soldier was welcome to drive up to the window, place his order, and receive his food without ever having to set foot inside the restaurant.

The soldier-friendly innovation opened on January 24, 1975. The first customers to drive up were the post commander and his daughter. They were far from the only ones who appreciated the service. As word spread, the line of G.I.-filled cars grew longer and longer. It was such a hit that the concept caught on throughout the country.

It’s hard to imagine a world where hungry customers had to get out of their cars and go inside to order their Big Macs, Quarter Pounders, fries, and soft drinks. As with all things, there had to be a first time. For McDonald’s, that first of many happened that day in Sierra Vista, Arizona, as one small token of appreciation to those who wear the uniform in defense of freedom but didn’t have the freedom to wear the uniform in a restaurant.

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