From restaurants to car washes, businesses today will offer free or reduced-price special deals to current and former military personnel to mark Veterans Day.
In what seems to be a new tradition for the holiday, veterans just need some military identification or proof of service to qualify for the specials.
The car wash industry has a national program of free Veterans Day washes, called Grace for Vets, that many people will take advantage of.
“It’s a program to give thanks to the veterans who have served. The car wash industry in New York state is very involved, and it’s been growing and growing,” said Glen Greco, owner of the Squirt’s Touch Free Car Wash in Schenectady, which will be participating.
Last year more than 100,000 free car washes were given, according to the car wash industry. A complete list of participating businesses is available at www.graceforvets.org.
While they’re a benefit to the veterans, freebies and discounts are also a way for businesses to reach out to a new generation of younger service members and veterans. The men and women who have served in the last decade in Iraq or Afghanistan are changing the face of a veterans’ community long-dominated by World War II, Korean War and Vietnam veterans.
Andrew Davis, Saratoga County’s director of veterans affairs, said one reason more businesses are participating is awareness about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the fact that overseas casualties are still on the public’s mind.
“As long as we’re seeing flags at half-staff and veterans are coming home to joblessness, I think we will see businesses stepping up,” he said.
In the highly competitive restaurant industry, many chains will offer special discounts today.
At Applebee’s Neighborhood Grill and Bar locations, veterans can choose from seven entrees and eat free.
Applebee’s officials said they served more than one million free meals nationwide last year.
And Applebee’s isn’t alone. Chili’s, Olive Garden, Uno Chicago Grill and T.G.I. Fridays all have similar deals for veterans and those still in uniform. Many Subway franchises offer a free 6-inch sandwich. Golden Corral will offer free dinners to veterans next Monday night.
Price Chopper supermarkets will be offering free coffee and doughnuts to veterans from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and contributing proceeds from the sale of special bouquets and other products to the Honor Flight Network and Wounded Warrior Project.
“Veterans Day is the chance for us to stand up and say thank you to a very special group of heroes,” said Price Chopper spokeswoman Mona Golub.
But food isn’t the only thing veterans can get deals on today. Both Lowe’s and Home Depot building supply stories offer active duty personnel and veterans 10 percent off.
Veterans Day specials are in addition to the day-to-day discounts a growing list of businesses are offering.
Counties across the state have started discount arrangements between their resident veterans and local businesses. Saratoga County, which began its “Return the Favor” program in July, has already had more than 200 businesses sign up to participate, and more than 2,000 veterans sign up to get the discounts.
“I think veterans appreciate it,” said Davis. “I’ve had many businesses tell me that veterans thank them.”
Just by their sheer numbers, American veterans are a potent economic force that businesses want to reach. There are nearly 24 million military service veterans living in the United States, including nearly a million who live in New York state.
But Todd Shimkus, president of the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, said most businesses reach out to veterans not for their own economic benefit, but because “they really want to give something back.”
“I think with the folks who offer discounts at the local level, it’s more to do good than to do what’s good for business,” he said.
Some organizations are aiding veterans this weekend out of the goodness of their hearts.
The Junior League of Schenectady and Saratoga Counties will be offering a meal and free spa services on Saturday to the women staying at the Guardian House, the new shelter for homeless female veterans in Ballston.
“That night we’ll be providing a nice relaxing evening for them,” said Stephanie Russell, project leader for the Junior League, a women’s volunteer service group.
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Categories: Schenectady County