Restaurant honors veterans with permanent parking

Nicole Koster

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Applebee’s is known for eating good in the neighborhood, but every year on Nov. 11, Applebee’s staff members are known for the thanks they show to veterans.
Veteran’s day is meant to honor the soldiers of America’s wars, past and present. However, this Veteran’s day at Applebee’s was more significant because the managers unveiled two permanent parking spaces for war veterans. Even though thirteen Applebee’s restaurants throughout the southern region have implemented this action, they are the first restaurant in Hammond to offer permanent parking for veterans.
Director of Operations Tom Havrilla said, “We want to recognize our veterans as a very important part of our community, and make something a little more accessible to them. It’s a small token to thank them for their sacrifices.”
The entire restaurant was packed from open to close, and veterans were able to enjoy a meal with their loved ones. Veterans were able to choose from a menu of eight meals on the house with proof of a military I.D. The new parking spots were always in use as well, with veterans leaving their cars with smiles on their faces.
“It makes me feel good to be able to honor them this way,” said Havrilla. “In Alexandria, we unveiled the spot and as soon as we took off the cover, a veteran pulled up and parked in the spot, and thanked us when he got out his car. That was a good feeling, and during the course of the day, those spaces were not filled by other people. So I think people are taking it seriously also.”
General Manager Tony White has a brother and a sister overseas on missions, and he said the permanent parking spaces are a great way to make a statement about the veterans.
“I’m proud of it, and I think it’s a great step. I think veterans are one of the most underappreciated groups of people. Sometimes we neglect the fact they are out there doing dangerous things to protect us, while we’re back here comfortable,” says White.
Veterans are already a permanent fixture in the Applebee’s restaurant. A lot of their business comes from local veterans, so the free meal and parking offered on Veteran’s Day was just an extra token.
“On a daily basis we get veterans coming in to dine,” White said. “We have one guy who comes in at least once a week, but it is not so much about business, but more about saying thank you to them. We try to go the extra mile for them.”
One veteran, who wished to remain anonymous, said having the parking spot for him and others who have served shows that their hardships have not gone unnoticed.
“It feels great, and all those days and nights standing out in the rain and mud, I told myself it would eventually pay off. Now, it has.”

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Restaurant honors veterans with permanent parking