Starbucks has hired more than 15,000 veterans and military spouses in the last five years. Each small, embroidered American flag on the right side of their special green aprons is a portal to countless stories of duty and commitment – packing tape and moving boxes; letters and video calls; long absences and joyful reunions; family and chosen family; courage and love.
“Being a military spouse is one of the hardest jobs out there,” said Kyle Trombley, who decided to join Starbucks after relocating to Tacoma, Wash., with his husband, Army Maj. Christopher B. Garrett.
Trombley got his start as a barista in a Military Family Store near Joint Base Lewis McChord. The store is one of 42 Starbucks locations near major military bases that have been designated and dedicated as Military Family Stores. All are staffed by veterans, military spouses and advocates, which helps the stores function as hubs of support for the military community and a cultural bridge between military and non-military customers. There will be 132 of these stores open by 2022. Starbucks has committed to hiring 25,000 veterans and military spouses by 2025.
“Starbucks from day one has become my second family. The people I worked with, our customers – we share many of the same struggles. It’s not just a place to work,” Trombley said. In their nearly 15 years together, he and his husband have relocated three times and are preparing for a fourth move this summer.
“To have somebody that you work with who knows that experience and what it’s like to go through that – it’s just like an instant connection,” Trombley said.
He said the Tacoma Military Family Store is a hub for many different types of people – veterans, active military members, military families and civilians. The Tacoma store features subtle nods to its community – military-themed photos and illustrations and a large sign that reads, “This store is dedicated to people united by their courage to serve our country.”
When Garrett got orders to move yet again, this time Trombley was able to transfer his job – a benefit offered to veterans and military spouses at Starbucks. He now manages a store in Lake Charles, La. Being able to develop his own career, even while relocating at regular intervals in support of his husband’s military service, is one of the main reasons Trombley chose to pursue a job at Starbucks.
“I wanted to be able to transfer within the company and actually build a career instead of just having to constantly have to start from square one,” Trombley said. “There has not been one moment where I ever regretted that decision.”
Last fall, Trombley drove his husband to Fort Polk and sat with him until it was time for Garrett to board a bus and then a plane. Garrett went to Iraq, and Trombley got back in the car, had a good cry and drove home alone. It was the fifth farewell of this kind – the deployment kind – in their nearly 15 years together.
“He’s only gone for nine months this time, but still, it’s very emotional. That never changes,” Trombley said. “You’re saying ‘Goodbye’ but wondering if this is a ‘See you later’ or an actual goodbye. You don’t know.”
Military life brings a host of challenges and complications, but to Trombley, these long separations are by far the most challenging part.
“I feel like we’ve been apart more than we’ve been together over the last 15 years, although he’s always there for me no matter if he’s halfway across the country or on the other side of the world,” Trombley said. “It’s hard, because you never know what’s going to happen. I know that’s true of life in general, not just having a loved one in the military, but this just adds that much more.”
Learn more about Starbucks commitment to veterans here, and visit the Starbucks Global Newsroom to read more about the challenges and rewards of military spouses.