After searching the seemingly endless list, I found the meal I wanted: chicken fried chicken.

It was the night before Veterans Day, and like millions of other vets, I was planning on going out for a free meal on Nov. 11.

It’s pretty easy for veterans to get a free meal on Veterans Day these days; just about every restaurant and its neighbor do something for vets on Veterans Day. Prior to this past Veterans Day, Fort Hood officials sent out a list of nearly 20 restaurants serving free meals to veterans. Other lists with more options were also floating around the Internet. In some cases, it was a free sandwich or pancakes. At others, it was any meal on the menu. Starbuck’s was giving away a free coffee to veterans. I thought about taking up that offer, but didn’t make it over there.

My free meal came from Cotton Patch. My family came with me, too. My wife ordered blackened mahi-mahi, and my daughter ordered her usual: chicken tenders and fries. I also ordered a side salad (not free).

Two years ago, I went to an Applebee’s in North Dakota on Veterans Day. The place was packed. Applebee’s has really jumped on the Veterans Day bandwagon in recent years.

A few weeks ago, the restaurant chain sent me two news releases promoting its Veterans Day free meal. And I heard last year Applebee’s served 1 million veterans on Veterans Day.

That’s a lot of chow. And the company should be commended for it, as should other companies who offer a free meal or other good deal to a vet on Veterans Day.

Of course, the businesses do make their money. I still had to chuck out more than $20 on Veterans Day for my family to eat. And millions of other families went out to eat last Monday — a day they probably wouldn’t otherwise go out to eat. But it was still worth it. And, hey, it’s the thought that counts.

I understand a few, old-school restaurants have been serving free meals to veterans for decades, but it seems only recently that all the national chains have jumped on board. Up until three years ago, I never really considered going out to eat for free on Veterans Day. However, moving to this area — where veterans’ issues and programs are front and center — my veteran status comes in handy sometimes.

After all, it’s never too late to accept a free meal. Especially if it’s chicken fried chicken.

Contact Jacob Brooks at​ or (254) 501-7468

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