Veterans Day may have been recognized Sunday, but that didn’t stop many local restaurants from offering free meals to veterans Monday, thanking them for their service.
The parking lot of Golden Corral was jam-packed as veterans and their family members and friends waited in the rain for a free meal during the restaurant’s 12th annual Military Appreciation night.
A number of other restaurants joined Golden Corral in celebration of Veterans Day, including Olive Garden, Applebee’s, Chili’s, Hooters, Texas Roadhouse, Subway and Krispy Kreme.
Retired Navy veteran David L. Francis waited about 30 minutes at Golden Corral before getting a plate.
The wait wasn’t a bother for the veteran, who was thankful for the event.
“That isn’t bad. I’ve sat in military chow lines longer than that,” he said.
This was the second year Francis attended the restaurant’s Military Appreciation night.
“I think it’s a very good thing that they do. I really appreciate it,” he said. “It’s good to get together, but it kind of brings back too many memories.”
Francis’ wife, Juella, was equally grateful her husband and the countless other veterans across the region and country were being recognized for their service.
“I think it’s a great, wonderful opportunity to serve our men who fought for our freedom and we just praise the lord that they’re able to come out and eat and enjoy the meal,” she said. “It’s wonderful that Golden Corral could do this for them and I’m 100 percent sure that they were blessed today because the line was very long.”
Retired Marine Corps veteran Kenneth Poteat traveled 38 miles across the mountain from Bakersville, N.C., to get his free meal from Golden Corral.
“It’s wonderful. I look around and I see all these other military personnel and some of them are retired and some of them just served two years, so it’s good to seem them. It really is,” he said.
Golden Corral’s Military Appreciation night has grown since it first started more than a decade ago.
To date, the restaurant has provided 3.2 million free meals and contributed more than $6.1 million to the Disabled American Veterans organization.
Chris Gomes, proprietor of the Johnson City location, said the event is just a small way for them to thank veterans of the past and present.
“A lot of Americans have forgotten what veterans have done for us in the past, so this is kind of to not only honor them but to help current generations understand and remember what some of veterans have done. This is a very small thing what we’ve done compared to what our veterans have done for us. This is just a small token of our appreciation,” he said.
Gomes said the Johnson City location would serve anywhere from 1,700 to 2,000 free meals during Monday’s Veterans Day event.