The high holy day is nearly upon us. Veterans all across the country are sifting through their deployment photos for a profile picture and ironing their favorite Punisher logo t-shirt to prepare for the big day, Veterans Day, the day when you’re supposed to really thank me for my service.
One of the most important parts of Veterans Day, aside from honoring those who served and whatnot, is the giveaways. It’s great that so many restaurants want to honor the nation’s veterans — so great that, with a little planning, you can eat for a week for free. I’m here to help all you motivators out there: Let’s put together an operations order to complete your mission of tipping the scales before your next physical fitness test. Here are my six easy steps to stretching your free fare longer than your proudly serving waistline can stand it:
1. Prep for return storage.
One thing you need to keep in mind about this Veterans Day eating system: You do this right, and you’re coming home with a lot of to-go boxes. Your own fridge might not be up to the challenge of holding all those uneaten halves of free alfredo and breadsticks from every Olive Garden in a 10-mile radius.
Don’t cheap out on this and get a mini-fridge. Those are good for a day of leftovers and a 12-pack at best. Go out and invest in a full fridge — but make sure you hit a place like Lowes and get yourself that sweet sweet 10% discount with your veterans ID.
You can easily pay for this in one day, if you plan right.
2. Map out your route.
Every year, dozens of online lists tell you which national chains are doing free meals or other discounts for veterans — here’s ours at Task & Purpose — but with a little legwork, you can find even more. The smart veteran has a Main Supply Route mapped out, with secondary locations and hot zones. (Midwestern vets, for example, know that a free Tim Hortons donut afflicts all customers with a touch of Canadian Hockey Violence, especially before coffee. They plan accordingly.)
Always be prepared to abandon one location and proceed to the the next. Remember: The point of this excursion is to eat your weight in valor. It doesn’t matter how you get there.
3. Always double-check your S-2.
Good intel-gathering is always about assimilating the little details. For example, Veterans Day is November 11th, but not every place will be giving away free food on that day, specifically.
Golden Corral will be observing Veterans Day the following Monday, because nobody likes too big of a weekend crowd hanging out at the chocolate wonderfall. Chipotle will be doing a BOGO deal November 7th from 5pm to close. Even my local casino is observing Veterans Day on the 10th with a free buffet. Which kind of feels like a rip-off for Marines, who have to settle for one evening of no-cost snow-crab legs to cover their birthday and Veterans Day.
Just like any mission you receive from command, verify as much intel as you can before you mount out. Check websites and Facebook pages of your favorite spots. If there’s nothing about a discount, don’t be afraid to run an info op and comment: “Hey, does your burrito shop offer a Veterans Day discount, or are you with the terrorists?” Be bold! As Hemingway once said: “There are worse things than war, and all of them come with a check at the end of the meal.”
4. When you maneuver, focus your center of gravity on the softest targets.
Sure, a lot of places are going to offer food to fill your patriotic gullet gratis, but they aren’t just going to hand it to you in a Taco Town commemorative tote and let you leave. Many restaurants are hoping you’ll sit down and have a beer or two while you thank your stomach for its service.
So if you’re planning to fill the fridge, you’ll need to find some places that are already geared to big take-home orders. Smart service members look first for the Little Caesars and the White Castles, knowing that those beautiful tiny burgers are especially great for freezing. These are also brands that a lot of normie civvies with weak constitutions know to avoid. That’s to a vet’s advantage: our bodies have endured the perils of reconstituted eggs and downrange DFAC surf-and-turf. We know we can survive belly bombers for a few days straight.
If you do decide to sit down for a meal, bring cash and thank the waitstaff for their service with a fat tip — generally, half of what the meal would cost if it’s free. Those poor people are going to be in their own trenches, dealing with angry veterans all day. It’s the least you can do. If tipping really bothers you, think of it as giving CERP funds to some locals whose lives were upended by your operations, because that’s what it is.
5. Hurry up and wait. Alone.
You don’t realize just how many veterans are out there until you show up somewhere that’s offering them free meals. I haven’t met a troop that would turn down free food yet — not even a “Frankfurters, Comma, Beef” MRE, otherwise known as The Four Fingers Of Death.
The easiest way to navigate the V-Day feeding frenzy is to go it alone. Kiss the wife and kids, loosen the belt, and just go, like a high plains drifter. It’s easier to seat one person at the Applebee’s bar than it is a to find a clean-ish booth family of three.
Most importantly, don’t just rely on lists of national chains. Your local restaurants might be just as generous, and less cluttered with old men in Navy command ballcaps. Who eat a lot.
6: Don’t get bored; add variety to your op with multiple objectives.
We all have our favorite spot, but if you just spend the day collecting Tavern Burgers at Red Robin, you’re going to burn yourself out pretty quick. Get the day started with some breakfast at Denny’s. Swing by Olive Garden for some of that zuppa toscana. Finish your day at O’Charley’s with dinner and a slice of pie.
Fulfill your destiny! You have an opportunity to eat at a variety of midgrade chain restaurants here. It would be a shame to limit your ambitions. And frankly, it would be un-American.