Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Hilton Hotels - Troops? What Troops?

Hilton Hotels Corporation has this message on their corporate website:

As the world leader in lodging hospitality, we at Hilton recognize our responsibility to corporate citizenship wherever we do business. Since our company was founded more than 80 years ago by Conrad Hilton, and through the stewardship of his son, Barron Hilton, we have demonstrated our commitment in this area through active support of a wide variety of causes and organizations.
It goes on to say that one of their areas of focus is selected health care programs.

Unless you're a severely wounded combat veteran.

Since 2003, the wounded service personnel from Washington DC area medical wards have been gathering every Friday evening in Fran O'Brien's Stadium Steak House located in the basement of Washington's Capitol Hilton. They are the soldiers and marines with some of the worst wounds. They have missing limbs, lost eyes, shattered faces and lives which will forever be tied to the soul-crushing atmosphere of a military or naval hospital. From Lisa Hoffman:

But come May 1, those much-anticipated outings from local military hospital wards will cease. Hilton Hotel Corp., landlord of the restaurant, is evicting Fran's from its decade-long location in the basement of the Capital Hilton in downtown D.C.

"For strictly business reasons related solely to the inability to reach a new lease arrangement, the Capital Hilton has elected to terminate the lease," hotel general manager Brian Kelleher said in an e-mailed statement.

Fran's _which is co-owned by Marty O'Brien, a son of the famed Washington Redskin for whom the upscale establishment is named, and Hal Koster, a veteran of three Vietnam tours _ sees things differently.

They say Hilton balked at their request to install an elevator that would make it easier for the vets on crutches and in wheelchairs to reach the restaurant, now accessible only by as many as 20 steps. Some allies of Fran's suspect that Hilton also soured on the arrangement because of the added liability the hotel might face by having so many disabled people on premises.
Hilton Hotels, in true philanthopic spirit, has suggested they might offer one of the other hotel venues for the Friday night outings.

How grand of them.

A large percentage of the men and women making the Friday night rendezvous have unbelievably cruel wounds. Their lives have been tragically altered and they live with a self-conscious embarrassment of permanently and visibily crippled bodies. The escape from the routine of recuperative therapy is a small step in an attempt to adapt to a life tied to a wheelchair, or a prostetic limb, or some other worse permanent disability.

Ramona Joyce, an Army vet who volunteers at Fran's, says she doubts Hilton understands what goes into hosting these troops. Perhaps most important, she said, is the atmosphere of camaraderie supplied by co-owner Koster, a man as beefy as his restaurant's fare who treats the young soldiers as his sons.

For Koster, 59, who did three tours in Vietnam on a helicopter gunship, the purpose of the dinners is to make sure that these kids are treated better than the soldiers who came home from Vietnam were.
Something that doesn't seem to matter to Hilton Hotels. It is, after all, a business decision. It's all based on the bottom line. Giving the boot to a few wounded soldiers is simply good business.

What is also good business, apparently, is being on the receiving end of Iraq reconstruction contractor Halliburton's overcharges. Hilton pocketed $3.6 million in Halliburton's unauthorized and unnecessary expenses.

At least we know which troops Hilton actually supports.

No comments: