FARGO - They’ve served us. Now, area businesses are serving them.
This Veterans Day, more than a dozen local restaurants and many other businesses are providing free meals and free or discounted services to those who are serving, or have served, in the nation’s armed forces.
The offers are a way to say thank you to the men and women who know from experience that freedom isn’t free, business owners and managers say.
Super Buffet in south Fargo was the first to offer a free meal this year with its event last Wednesday.
Super Buffet served more than 430 meals in its daylong Thank-A-Thon, which included a ceremony to honor prisoners of war and those listed as missing in action, Manager James Peterson said.
“We’ve always had a thing for our veterans here,” Peterson said.
Owner Henry Guo said it’s important to remember their sacrifices.
“We are part of the community. We appreciate the veterans,” Guo said.
Guo’s early start is a plus for current and ex-military members, giving them a chance to graze through a few more of the gratis offerings around Veterans Day, Disabled American Veterans Commander Vince Dicks said.
Texas Roadhouse in Fargo and F-M Applebee’s will be among the restaurants dishing up their thanks on Tuesday.
Brandon Goebel, managing partner of Texas Roadhouse, said the restaurant has provided free Veterans Day food to vets for years.
“We’ve made it part of our culture,” Goebel said.
The free chow will be served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., with some community seating, he said.
“We’ll try to make it as smooth as possible. We’ll do everything we can to get them in and have some good times,” Goebel said.
Bret Yaeger, area director for Applebee’s, said the restaurants have offered good grub from a special menu for many years.
“It’s an opportunity for Applebee’s to say thank you,” the former Army National Guardsman said. “It’s an opportunity for us to serve them because they serve us.”
Great Clips salons in the F-M area are offering free haircuts on Tuesday for active-duty military personnel and veterans, said J’Amy Higgins, a supervisor at the 19th Avenue North store in Fargo
In addition, anyone who buys a service can get a card they can hand off to someone now or formerly in the military. That free haircut must be redeemed by Dec. 31, Higgins said.
The same goes for active-duty military or veterans who don’t need a haircut now. They can walk into a store Tuesday and get a card to use later.
Higgens said the freebies will be a lot better than basic training buzz cuts.
“Any kind of haircut that they want,” she said.
‘Greeted and treated’
Current and former soldiers, sailors and airmen like the deals.
“Most of the service members I know are humbled by it, and appreciative,” said Mark Ostern, 119th Air Wing’s Airman and Family Readiness Program manager.
“We have had so much positive support from the community. Without that community support; that security web, it would make it extremely difficult to do what we do,” Ostern said. “It’s always nice to have those things come around.”
Back at the Super Buffet, Robert Fujere, a Vietnam vet who spent 20 years in the service, was greeting veterans and their wives as they walked in the door.
“It’s good for the veterans. It’s good for the community,” Fujere said. “It’s just like Christmastime. It’s cool.”
“The veteran walks in here (Super Buffet), he gets greeted and treated,” added Ron Jackson, a Korean War vet. “He leaves here happy. They don’t have to pay for anything.”
Bob Schroder, a Vietnam vet from Kindred, was an Army flight engineer and crew chief on Caribou transport aircraft.
Schroder said the meals at Super Buffet and other places are part of “the healing process” for veterans, as they get to share their experiences.
“It makes the veterans feel appreciated for some of the things we had to do,” Schroder said.
Richard L. Roberts, a Korean War veteran from West Fargo, also likes the camaraderie.
“You get a chance to get together and socialize,” the former Air Force electronics technician said.