It’s coming. I have to be honest, I am a little more excited than I should be given it’s just a free lunch. However, the free lunch on Veteran’s day is starting to become a thing. I’ll expound a little bit more on this later in the post. Veteran’s day is the day that our nation celebrates, well the Veterans of which there are now many. Veteran’s day itself is far more than a free lunch. However, for this post, I am just tackling this aspect of it. For myself and my fellow Marines, the November 11th Veteran’s Day always follows our November 10th birthday which makes for quite the 48 hour patriotic extravaganza. Thankfully, the Declaration of Independence wasn’t signed on November 12th or we would all go Full Chesty and invade Mexico or something by the end of the week. Look up Chesty Puller for you non-military types.
So if you haven’t paid attention, restaurants have begun to offer a free meal to all Veterans on Veteran’s day. I am not sure who started it, but I first heard about it when Applebee’s was doing it. Since then, it seems like most restaurants have jumped on the Yankee Doodle bandwagon. I don’t have a problem with this of course. After all, it seems like a fairly nice gesture.
Some do a better job at than others. Most all of them give you a special menu to order from which is either designed to be helpful or control cost. I’m thinking the latter as your service is appreciated but not regular price chicken platter appreciated. Let’s not get carried away or anything. Some make you pay for your beverages while others don’t. However, even if your bill is zero at the end, still tip my fellow Veterans. Stay classy.
But regardless of how well each restaurant pulls off the gesture, I do appreciate it and I think most vets do as well. I’ve even toyed with the idea of taking the day off work one year while getting together some of my fellow vets and go free meal hopping starting with the free donuts from Dunkin in the morning and going until midnight. But that just seems like too much work. After all, it’s not really the free food that brings me the joy I was describing above. But again, I will get to that in a minute.
Now if you walk in to one of these establishments, you will notice that there is all sorts of paraphernalia being used as proof of service. I’ve seen your classic grey haired old man with a VFW mesh hat on and even an actual former Master Sargent I knew who apparently lost his old ID because he was wearing his old woodland cammie top. Literally, rank and all. But it does bring with it a certainty that somewhere in that eating establishment there is some stolen valor trying to swipe some of my chicken strips.
Stolen Valor of course is the occurrence when non-military types put on military gear and claim to be military or veterans for reasons unknown to me. Now Stolen Valor bothers me, but honestly, I don’t get too worked up about it in most cases as there is some obvious mental health issues going on with some of these people. And clearly, none of these people know how to work Google because their uniforms are hilariously wrong. I mean, they could probably go all Lance Corporal non-deployed with one ribbon admin type and pull it off, but no. Instead, they have to go all force recon, Purple Heart, Gunny Highway meets General Patton and they look stupid.
But the Veteran’s meal is a little easier for them to pull off. And for some of these crazies, if the most insane thing they are choosing to do that day is sneak into Applebee’s with a military shirt on and get some free chicken strips, then I consider that a good day for crazy people in America. So while I am certain it is going on, I’ll not be slapping a chicken strip out of someone’s hand on Tuesday while yelling at them that they don’t rate.
The Real Reason
But let’s talk about the free food. Like I said, I find myself looking forward to it more than I should. When I thought hard about it, I realized, it’s actually not about the food at all. I mean the free food is nice and all, but I have a job and I can afford the full chicken strip platter off the regular menu if I really want. No, I realized that I like the free Veteran’s day meal because honestly, it feels like a mess hall to me. And I like that.
Call it a Mess hall, chow hall, or whatever you like, you know what I am talking about. My first mess hall experience was at Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego. If I recall it lasted about 30 seconds as after I sat down, the Drill Instructors were then telling us we were done, get out. Oddly enough, my last mess hall experience was at Edson Range in Camp Pendleton as when we returned from Iraq we spent about 3 weeks in the barracks adjacent to the recruit mess hall. This was entertaining to say the least and something about it felt a little like coming full circle.
So when I am sitting in the restaurant on Veteran’s Day, something honestly appeals to me knowing that most everyone in the place is a Veteran. Except for that one non-rate thief trying to get his hands on Chesty’s chicken strips. But I look around and in one room you have Veterans from World War 2 and forward sitting in the same place socializing. Sometimes I have gone with fellow Vets I know which is fun. While others, I just go by myself, sit at the bar, and starting talking it up with random Vets with whom it is very easy to find a connection. I have to admit, I look forward to that a lot.
So there it is. That’s my take on this coming Tuesday’s meal deal and why I look forward to it so much. More than the free food, I thank those establishments for creating a Veteran saturated hang out. Not enough of that goes on these days. We have our Facebook pages and groups, but sitting down in the same building together is something I hope doesn’t get lost with us modern group of Veteran’s used to social media. So when you’re out this Tuesday Vets, look around and enjoy. It doesn’t happen enough.
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