Applebees so I can get a free meal. This year I noticed a lot more places giving free "stuff" to Veterans and I have a few mixed feelings about this. It seems popular all of a sudden to support our Veterans, which is cool, but a lot of times it feels a bit hollow.
Applebees, or at least my local restaurant, honors Vets year-round with a 10% discount. I know they have some Vets on staff and they come off, to me, as genuine. They have an honor table set up by the entrance and nice (not over the top) decor throughout the place.
Now we go to this Applebees a lot. In general we don't eat at this chain anywhere else. I know there are folks that don't like this restaurant, but for me it is the specific location (people & place) which is why we come back. Because of the free Veteran's meals this place was far busier than normal. It really makes me wonder how many Vets only eat here once a year? I actually heard the gentlemen at one table tell their server, "See you next year" as they left. I also noted they shorted the server a bit on a tip.......
While that was a bit upsetting my meal was enjoyable and I got to watch a really cool montage of welcome home surprises on the TVs around the bar area. The restaurant had ESPN on most of the TVs and this is what that station was running at the time. It reminded me of the time I got to surprise my mother on a visit home.
I was PCSing (Permanent Change of Station) from Germany to Texas and took a month of leave en-route. I was flying back on Christmas Eve and because of a delay at JFK I ended up not getting to my mother's house until nearly 5 AM. My step-father was supposed to leave the front door open for me to get in. Their house is out in the country so an unlocked door shouldn't be an issue. Of course, since I was running nearly 6 hours late.....the door was locked.
Here I am standing outside in the freezing weather trying to get in to my mom's house. I ended up having to ring the doorbell. To my surprise they had an intercom system to the front door and I hear my mother groggily asking "Who is it?" I tell her it's "Chris" and she tells me the Christmas Party isn't until noon and I should come back later!
I can hear my step-father in the background tell her, "I don't think it's that Chris" and you can almost hear the gears churning until she realizes I'm home for a surprise Christmas visit. The rest, for a few minutes, was just like the video. After the initial glee was over she wanted to get back to bed.
I'm grateful for my time in the Air Force and I'm grateful for those that came before that allowed me the opportunity to grow up free and do the things I've done. I know Thanksgiving isn't until the end of the month, but if you take a quick early stock of the things you have to be thankful for, please be cognizant of how Veterans made many of those things possible.