This month, a local Chick-fil-A in Avon, Ohio, took the chain’s usual Veterans Day promotion a step further when they gave a local World War II veteran free food for life.
Ernie, who was identified only by his first name at the request of his family and the restaurant, is a 92-year-old Army veteran who served with the 1st Cavalry Division during World War II. Part of his weekly routine for the last year has been to visit the restaurant to get his fill of fried chicken and pop.
His usual order? A six-piece of chicken nuggets, a root beer, and five to six packets of mustard.
“We joke that the key to his longevity is his high sodium diet, and he just laughs,” Melissa Luebbert, the restaurant’s executive director, told Task & Purpose.
As Veterans Day approached this year, James Cook, a manager at the restaurant, suggested doing something special for Ernie: a lifetime supply of Chick-fil-A.
“Ernie has been coming here for little over a year and most of us have struck up quite the bond with him,” said Luebbert who helped organize and announce their decision to honor Ernie in a Nov. 11 Facebook video. “We knew he was a World War II veteran — he always had hats on — and over time, we got to talking, and then you’d hear the stories about it. He was just really cool.”
In the video, Cook, Luebbert, and owner Chris Tincher, himself an Army veteran, sat down with Ernie and presented him with a lifetime supply of chicken, root beer, and whatever else he wants from the menu, along with a custom-made Chick-fil-A challenge coin.
“It was kinda of a shock to me,” Ernie told the local Fox News affiliate. “I didn’t think I really deserved a free meal.”
Luebbert and her colleagues at the restaurant think otherwise.
“Ernie is so humble, and was saying how he doesn’t deserve this, and discounts how he wasn’t one of the service men on the beaches in Normandy and in battle, but he was with the 1st Cavalry when Japan surrendered, so he still had a big role,” Luebbert said. “Everybody has a role and they’re all equally important.”
Since then, Luebbert said that Ernie has visited the restaurant three to four times a week — and he still gets the same thing every time.