Golden Corral honors vets with Military Appreciation Day

MARYSVILLE — The Marysville Golden Corral served even more vets than usual during its annual “Military Appreciation Day” Nov. 16, as co-owner Mike Kossak reported that 462 current and former service members took advantage of their free dinner buffets from 5-9 p.m.

“It’s a fun night where we try to seat strangers together on purpose,” Kossak said. “In most cases, they don’t mind at all.”

Retired Marine and Vietnam veteran Don Wilkins of Granite Falls welcomed active-duty Navy sailor Damon Sanders to his table, where he sat along side Wilkins’ wife Terry and daughter Misty. Wilkins and Sanders found out that they’d both served at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Japan, albeit decades apart. Wilkins joined the Marine Corps in response to the war and to continue a family tradition, while Sanders joined the Navy to learn a trade and get a college education.

“I joined in the hopes that nobody would have to serve in my stead,” Wilkins said.

“I’m proud of my service and I appreciate our veterans,” said Sanders, a Texas native currently stationed at Whidbey Island. “When you leave your family behind to go overseas, it’s stressful.”

USS Rodney M. Davis shipmates Joseph Shedd and Tim Chartier attended their first Military Appreciation Day dinner in uniform with their wives, while USS Momsen shipmates Frank Duggins and Zachary Lund showed up in their civvies and shared stories with Marysville resident Ken Rice, who served in the Army from 1949-1952.

“I wouldn’t do it again for a million dollars, but I wouldn’t take a million dollars to have that experience taken away,” Rice said. “For a while, I lived in a hut in Guadalcanal, with an outhouse that was guarded by a crocodile. That took a little practice.”

John Common, a blind, wheelchair-bound Vietnam veteran, had nothing but praise for the attentiveness and assistance of the Golden Corral waitstaff.

“I’m just honored to be able to do this for them,” Kossak said.

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