WASHINGTON, Sept. 18 (UPI) -- The Little Caesars Enterprises Inc. founder received the U.S. Veterans Affairs Department's top civilian honor for giving war veterans franchise opportunities.
Michael Ilitch received the Secretary's Award in Washington for his "innovative program that inspires veterans into entrepreneurship," Secretary James Nicholson said.
Ilitch created the program last November after learning of Army Staff Sgt. Robbie Doughty, an Iraq war veteran who lost his legs in the line of duty.
Ilitch gave Doughty and fellow veteran Lloyd Allard a store in Kentucky.
The veterans' successes led to a national Little Caesars Veterans Program, through which combat-wounded soldiers receive $68,000 and non-wounded veterans receive $10,000 to help them open a Little Caesars franchise.
The program is open to veterans of any era.
More than 1,100 veterans have inquired about the program and five veteran-owned stores will open by year end, Ilitch said.
Ilitch, a Marine Corps veteran himself, projected a veteran-owned franchise will open about every two weeks in 2008, The Detroit News reported.