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Veterans celebrated with free meal at Golden Corral
MARYSVILLE — The sign outside said Military Appreciation Monday ran from 5 to 9 p.m., but anybody who arrived at the Golden Corral at 5 p.m. faced a wait for a table.
Nov. 17 marked the date of Golden Corral's eighth-annual event honoring veterans and active-duty military personnel with a free dinner. The restaurant's staff grilled steaks, served salmon and kept a steady rotation of hot chicken and fresh salad fixings available for the military personnel and their families who lined up with plate in hand.
"There's a lot of guys who stop me and say, 'Nobody ever thanked me before,'" said Marysville branch owner Mike Kossak, who seated individuals, couples and families who waited as long as an hour for a table. Kossak played a kind of matchmaker, pairing groups to maximize the buffet-style restaurant's seating.
"I've had people reunited before," he added. "It's not just an event, it's people coming together."
Retired Air Force veteran Everett Greenhalgh was one to meet an old friend again at the Golden Corral. Several years back, Greenhalgh said, he had been one of the Disabled American Veterans sponsors at the door, greeting families and handing out the classic blue Forget-Me-Not. It was that year he met up with Bill Schoonover, who had played Santa at the VA Hospital in Seattle years before. Schoonover, who was once again at the post at the door, still had the beard.
This year, Greenhalgh came to the event for dinner and credited Kossak and the Golden Corral for their efforts to raise money for Disabled American Veterans.
The funds raised from the event help support veteran services such as running daily shuttles to and from the VA Hospital in Seattle. They show up in smaller ways too, according to DAV board member Raymond Radke, who chatted with customers waiting to be seated.
"We bought Nintendo Wiis for two hospitals," he said, adding that Wii programs can help patients progress in physical therapy and are the kind of thing that can clutter a hospital's wish list for years.
Kossak said over 1,000 people were served, with 421 veterans receiving free meals. DAV raised $738 at the Marysville Golden Corral. The event raised $650,000 for the organization nationwide last year.