Golden Corral, the nation's largest buffet restaurant chain, has served more than 6 million free Veterans Day meals to the nation's veterans over the past 22 years with its annual Military Appreciation Night and is proud to continue the tradition to honor those "who have served our country so honorably," Lance Trenary, the president and CEO of the Golden Corral Corporation told Newsmax on Friday.
"We really have a deep conviction at Golden Corral of making sure that we honor and serve those who have served us," Trenary said on Newsmax's "Wake Up America." "It's part of our DNA. It's part of our culture of giving back to the communities that we serve."
On Monday, after 5 p.m., all Golden Corral locations will offer a free, dine-in meal for active and former members of the military. Trenary said the business, in conjunction with the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) organization, offers the special night because they consider recognition of veterans as an important part of what they do every day.
"We don't take our freedoms for granted at Golden Corral," he said. "The men and women of our military are at the very core of the reasons that we're able to do what we do, so it's a special time of year."
This year, Trenary added, Golden Corral will go past the $18 million that's been raised for the DAV.
"It's something that every one of our franchisees highly engages in our coworkers and our guests across the country, so we're really excited about it, and we're looking forward to being able to serve those that have served," said Trenary.
Military Appreciation Nights for the chain started when the DAV partnered with a franchise in Virginia Beach, Virginia, with local events, after which the chain took the idea nationally to its restaurants in 38 states in Puerto Rico.
"We are so excited about this night every year," Trenary said. "It's one of the most humbling nights of the year to see these incredible veterans coming in. It's especially gratifying when we see Vietnam or World War II veterans coming in and how the rest of the veterans stand up and clap and salute. If you leave that night with dry eyes, something's wrong with you because it's just a touching and moving night."
The DAV also supports Golden Corral's "Camp Corral," which allows children of wounded military service members to go to summer camp for free, said Trenary, noting that more than 30,000 children have so far been able to participate.
"It's a wonderful relationship we have with the military," he said. "Most of our restaurants are near military bases, and so we've got this deep connection with them, anyway."
Golden Corral's first restaurant opened in 1973 in Fayetteville, North Carolina, so Fort Bragg was instrumental in the chain's success, as was Camp Lejune near Jacksonville, North Carolina, Trenary said.
"We're so appreciative of the way they've helped us, but more importantly, it's the right thing to do to support our men and women," he said.
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