Although rabid right-wing patriots shoulder their Kalashnikov AK-47 assault rifles and peer through the sights when they hear me say it, I'm a veteran.
Today’s my day. Veterans Day — the only holiday I can celebrate because of a decision I made for myself rather than because someone else was born or died, or some battle was won or begun.
I want to thank all of the companies and institutions in America that honor the veterans on this special day. Especially the restaurants and The Home Depot.
In fact, I have set an intention to show as many of these companies and organizations as I can just how much I appreciate their respect for those of us who put our lives on the line (or at least put our lives on hold) for our country.
(Although I must say here that it disturbs me deeply that I went into the Army and faced possible death at the hands of our enemies only to see a race for the U.S. presidency during my lifetime in which one of the leading Republican candidates, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, would say in a televised debate that to trim government spending he would eliminate three federal departments, and when asked which departments, he was able to name only two. For this I suffered?)
But I digress. If I had thought ahead, like the Army tried to teach me, I could have begun accepting America’s gratitude at the very minute Veterans Day began, at 12:01 a.m. today. The MD Resort Bed and Breakfast in Aurora, Texas, a few miles west of Fort Worth (did I mention I live in Fort Worth?), was offering a free night’s stay on Nov. 10 to the first two veterans who called. I’m sure I missed that deadline.
Even missing that offer, I thought I could begin accepting the appreciation of America's businesses right after the stroke of midnight by patronizing my local Denny’s. According to themilitarywallet.com, Denny’s is offering a free Grand Slam breakfast to any veteran at “select diners” in Maryland, Virginia, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Indiana, Colorado and Washington, D.C. Alas, the offer wasn’t in effect until 6 a.m.
I find that a little un-American. A lot of vets can’t sleep through the night. Many suffer severe post-traumatic stress disorder and have terrible nightmares. Others have jobs as night guards and work the graveyard shift; they’re home and back in bed by 6 a.m. If Denny’s truly appreciated veterans, they would offer the Veterans Day special starting when the holiday starts, at 12:01 a.m.
But 6 a.m. works for me. After I wolf down a Grand Slam at Denny’s, I’ll head to The Home Depot, where I can get a 10 percent discount on purchases up to $2,000. I’m thinking I might buy a box of the American flag window shades by Redi Shade. (To be fair, Lowe’s also is offering a 10 percent discount to vets, but The Home Depot is closer to my Denny’s.)
Unfortunately, the Krispy Kreme that had been nearest to me is shuttered. So I’ll head to the next nearest one. GoogleMaps tells me it’s 10.18 miles from The Home Depot I’ll support. Perfect.
By the way, I learned these kinds of tactical maneuvers and map-reading skills in the Army. I served three years of active duty in the U.S. Army and two years in the Active Reserves. I enlisted. That’s how I eventually became a veteran.
It was 1972. The United States had quit sending troops to Vietnam, the draft was over, and I was a broke 20-year-old who had completed one year of college before dropping out and taking a string of dirty, miserable jobs.
The military then was offering greater benefits than it does now, and more options, too. In exchange for three years of your life, you got to select your duty region (Europe, Asia, the good ol’ U.S.A., etc.). After an honorable discharge, you got cash if you went to college — and you got the same amount of cash each month whether you attended the cheap local junior college or some wildly expensive Ivy League institution. You got the VA Home Loan Guaranty (both of my ex-wives benefited from that one), and more stuff.
Beyond all of that, I figured, how bad can the Army be without a war? I mean, really, what is there to do or worry about? The answer: The Army sucks in peacetime, too.
I fought the Big One in Bavaria, stationed at a wonderful little town deep in the Black Forest near Nuremberg. Already familiar with Yiddish since childhood, the local German dialect came fairly easily. And I never had to worry about deciding what to wear to work. Or think too much. Nonetheless, I got through it, and today I accept the heartfelt hugs of a grateful nation.
After I teach my yoga class today, I’m going to fly to Austin, rent a car and visit the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park — for free, because the National Park Service offers that to veterans on Veterans Day.
For lunch, I’m going to grab a friend and head to T.G.I. Friday’s. I’m taking a friend because today, T.G.I. Friday’s is offering veterans a buy-one-get-one-free deal. I hope my nearest location is honoring this offer. I would hate to have to teach them a thing or two about showing respect for our troops.
At T.G.I. Friday’s, I’ll eat just a bite of my lunch (so it counts as a sit-down meal) while my friend finishes his or her meal. I’ll take my leftovers and head to Texas Roadhouse, where I can get a free lunch from a menu that includes such great dishes as a pulled-pork dinner with two sides, the all-American sandwich with fries, and the country-fried sirloin with two sides.
I figure after all of that eating, I’ll need some new clothes. So I’m going shopping at Steve Madden, which on Veterans Day is saluting America’s heroes by doubling its everyday military discount of 15 percent. Cool. The 30 percent discount is even worth the drive to Dallas, home of the only Steve Madden store in North Texas.
For the afternoon, I’ll wear my new full-fitted threads from Steve Madden on my flight to La Porte, Texas, where I’ll enjoy free admission to the theater and observation floor of the San Jacinto Monument and Museum.
After the San Jacinto Monument and Museum, I’ll be thirsty ... and hungry again. I’d like to go to a Bar Louie, which is saluting veterans today, but there’s not one in Texas (two are in the works). So, I’ll drive the mere 10 miles from La Porte to Baytown and accept the thanks of an Outback Steakhouse in the town “Where Oil and Water Really Do Mix” (honest, that’s the city’s motto). The Veterans Day deal for me from Outback: a free Bloomin’ Onion and “Coca-Cola product,” according to the restaurant’s website. That’ll hold me for the trip back to Fort Worth.
I’m not sure about dinner. My choices for a free meal that I consider worthy of my time in the service of my country include Applebee’s, Chili’s, Famous Dave’s, Hooters (which requires a drink purchase with the free meal, but I can roll with that), Sizzler (take a friend and we both get a six-ounce steak for the price of one!), Subway (or not), Olive Garden, Twin Peaks (“up to $10!”) and Uno Chicago Grill.
On the other hand, there are certain establishments that are simply insulting with their alleged tributes to the American serviceman or servicewoman: Fox & Hound (free meal, but only from the “7 under $7” menu); BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse (but only for a one-topping mini-pizza); Champps Americana (which I won’t go to because of the stupid name and because the offer is not valid for the Pepperjack Bacon Stack Burger or Kobe Burger), or Little Caesars Pizza (a mere free Crazy Bread, whatever that is).
I mean, really. A piece of Crazy Bread in exchange for defending my country against the threat of Bavarian bratwurst and ale? For that I marched miles and miles to some guy barking, “You had a good home when you left. Your mother was home when you left. Your sister was home when you left …”?