Personally I have come a long way since I first stepped on the famed yellow footprints some 20 years ago. I went on to earn the title United States Marine, graduate college, serve a deployment to war, gain my Master’s Degree, develop a career in non-profit management, became a husband, father to three children, start a writing career and an increasingly worrisome obsession with Bea Arthur’s panties. But I’ll be darned, I still haven’t gotten so uppity as to turn down a free plate of chicken strips when offered. Yes, I’ll be eating something for free somewhere on veterans and I’ll do it without shame. Who knows, I might even hit up Dunkin Donuts for breakfast, Applebee’s for lunch and round out the evening at Buffalo Wild Wings for wings and a beer. Why would I do such a thing you ask? Did I join the military for free meals and attention? No, but I didn’t join the military for jalapeno cheese either and you never saw me turn that down. These gimmicky veteran meals are fun people and there is nothing and I mean absolutely nothing wrong with taking advantage of them. Why am I going to Buffalo Wild Wings on Veterans day? Because its free and I like hot wings that’s why. Go ahead my fellow veterans, enjoy your free meal on veterans day and do it with pride and here’s why.

It’s Not About You

To my uppity brethren publicly refusing to take advantage of a free meal and offering public shame for those who do, did you ever consider it’s not about you. Who made you the boot camp guide over the veteran community? Did you ever consider for a second that for many of the veterans enjoying these meals it really does mean a lot to them? Just today at a local senior center where I serve we had a veteran’s lunch for this old salty generation of vets. Even had a man who joined the Navy in 1943 and slugged it out in the Pacific in attendance.

The meal was provided by veteran owned BBQ company Nordic Smoke BBQ. So a quick hats off to them for their help and if you need great BBQ in the Inland Northwest they are the guys to call. I say that coming from Memphis TN, home of the real BBQ, so you know I can be trusted. However, this was a free event for veterans, free for veteran spouses and it meant the world to them. Far too many veterans of any generation fall prey to isolation as time goes on. Many find themselves on fixed incomes and strapped for cash. So yes, the fact that they walk into an Applebee’s and order up a free plate of chicken strips matters. Maybe it’s not about you youngin too good to eat a free plate of chicken strips. Maybe, just maybe these free meals serve a larger social purpose and being part does as well.

But I Don’t Need Charity

I don’t need charity either buddy, but I like hot wings and they offering. I’ve never been a guy who runs to Home Depot and pulls out the veteran discount when I’m buying a box of screws or a hammer. But I’m here to swear on Bea Arthur’s panties that if I am buying a big ticket appliance item at Home Depot I’m going to march through that checkout line something like this…

That’s right, I’m gonna take that 10% discount on a new refrigerator. It’s not because I earned it, but it’s because 10% can save me like a hundred bucks and they offering. And let’s not act like we walk out of that restaurant having spent nothing. If you eat your free vet meal and don’t tip you are being a douche. Don’t be that guy. Many of us will order a beer or beverage and may even bring non-vets with us who spend cash.

The whole thing is already a little gimmicky to start with as it is kind of like, “we appreciate your service but only like $11.99 and below from the special menu appreciate. Let’s not get carried away and appreciate it on the ribeye level.”  It’s just fun people, but if you sit at the bar be sure and talk with people. You got a pretty good shot the person to your left or right is veteran so chat them up. You never know if they could really need the conversation. Enjoy with pride, be sure to tip and actually talk to your fellow veterans for the win. But one final word about chicken strip stolen valor.

Check Your Need for Stolen Valor at the Door

I’m a firm believer in the mission of Guardian of Valor for what they do to out posers and imposters. Protecting the true definition of valor is a charge our generation has been given as stewards of what those who have gone before us have earned. But there is a time and a place people. Going after the gentlemen sitting at a bar eating a free meal because he can’t remember some obscure provisions of the UCMJ is ridiculous. Better to let 1,000 posers get away than to besmirch one actual veteran for stolen valor.

That’s why I am a fan of Guardian of Valor and I say let the pro’s handle it. These guys have actually launched a coffee brand, Grounds of Valor, where 25% of the proceeds go to fund real actual investigations. Not some boot with a cell phone camera quizzing me about all my general orders. They are the real deal and I’d encourage you to go check out what the pro’s have to offer as well. This is coffee with a purpose and it is Bea Arthur Panty approved.

All of that to say, go eat your free chicken strips my friends. Do it with pride and let not anyone shame you into thinking you are lesser for doing so. For many veterans, this actually means a lot to them. I can testify after working with meal on wheels that there are many veterans who only eat one meal a day and the only human face they will see that day is the one that drops off the food. Maybe it’s not about you uppity Boot McBooterton. But as for me and my kind, I’m going to eat free hot wings because I like hot wings and they offering. I suggest you do the same my friends.

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