A Shout Out to Olive Garden and Starbucks for Veterans Day Offers

Veterans Day Free Meal Menu at Olive Garden

Every year that I’ve been in the United States on Veterans Day I’ve had the opportunity to get freebies from various companies when dining out. For example, Olive Garden offered a free entree and Starbucks offered a free tall (small) plain coffee for veterans. I took advantage of both. There are other sites that have lists of what restaurants offered this year, though. That’s not really the point of this post.

I was just thinking about how great it is that as a veteran these companies are willing to recognize my military service by giving me something for free. Granted, people who serve in the military are essentially putting themselves at risk to preserve the U.S. way of life, including its economy, in theory, and are protecting these businesses as a result, but that doesn’t obligate them to offer discounts or free meals.

I suppose I’m a pessimist. You almost have to draw blood to get wages raised to what constitutes a living wage. Companies cut corners by putting yoga mat material in their so-called meat patties to increase profits. So, to see a company just putting stuff out there for veterans for free still surprises me every year.

This post is basically just a big thank you to those companies and especially to Olive Garden and Starbucks since I’ve gone to those establishments nearly every year on Veterans Day. Thanks!

Veteran’s Day Dinner 2013

PVT Elma and Me July 30 1999 Fort Lee VA, AIT
“PVT Elma + Me. July 30, 99 Fort Lee, VA (AIT)”

Ever since I enlisted in the Army and businesses started offering Veterans Day promotions, I’ve tried to make it to a participating business each year. I’m not one to pass up free food, especially when it’s from a place like Olive Garden. I’m just being practical. Besides, I’m a veteran, and in a way, I already paid for it. That’s what the day is about, and I’m glad businesses have decided to give back to the veteran community one day a year in a show of appreciation for the efforts and loss that some people went through, or are still going through, for those on active duty.

The first time I remember going to a restaurant for a free meal on Veterans Day was when I was stationed at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Texas. I think I went to a Golden Corral or a similar all-you-can-eat buffet-style restaurant with a group of guys from my unit.  This year, like last year, my wife and I went to the Olive Garden in Times Square. In addition to the free entree for veterans, the restaurant was offering 10% off for family members. I’m not sure if that was 10% off the rest of the bill, or just the other entree(s). I forgot to check and tossed the receipt already, but it doesn’t really matter to me. A discount is a discount.


The entree options for veterans were limited, but they offered a nice variety of choices. I went with the cheese ravioli. We also got the stuffed mushrooms as an appetizer and my wife ordered the capellini pomodoro, which she said tasted delicious.  It looked delicious. I also ordered a new drink they have, a blood orange blackberry iced tea. That tasted outstanding.

Blood Orange Blackberry Iced Tea
Blood Orange Blackberry Iced Tea
Cheese Ravioli with Marinara Sauce
Cheese Ravioli with Marinara Sauce
Capellini Pomodoro
Capellini Pomodoro

These guys were outside the Olive Garden. I thought it was pretty cool, so I want to share the photo:

Mounted NYPD
Mounted NYPD

We finished the evening off at Starbucks, which was offering a free tall brewed coffee to veterans and family members.

The evening wasn’t completely free, but the discounts at Olive Garden made our evening out more affordable and gave my wife and I an opportunity to be thankful for my coming home in one piece, to remember those who didn’t, and gave us another reason to just spend time together out of the house. We’re looking forward to doing it again next year.

Veteran’s Day Free Food and Somewhat Free Food Adventure


Veterans Day is a day for honoring veterans of the armed forces in the US.  This morning, there was a parade to honor the federal holiday.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know about it or I’d have been there taking photos.  I guess I’ll have to make sure to go there next year to check it out.

For those of you that don’t know, I’m a veteran myself.  I served in the US Army for 8 years, and I’ll take this opportunity to brag about some of my achievements.  I served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.  I was part of the initial force that moved into Iraq, right after the Iraqi Republican Guard was bombed on the border.  I was deployed again in 2007 for an Air Defense Artillery operation.  While I was in, I racked up a stack of certificates of appreciation and certificates of achievement, as well as more notable awards like 3 Army Achievement Medals and a Good Conduct Medal.  I also had the opportunity to participate in a German weapons qualification range and scored a Silver.  I missed Gold by 1 round from a 9mm.  There’s plenty more that I did, including community service projects like assisting kindergarten teachers with classes in El Paso, but you get the point.  I did service to the country, and today was a day to celebrate that service, and get some free food!

Quite a few food chains had specials today, offering free or discounted meals to veterans, and I took the opportunity to meet up with a guy I served with in Kuwait at Applebee’s on 50th Street, near Times Square.  It was the first time we’d seen each other since we left Kuwait in early 2008.  We were greeted warmly, treated well, and the food was good.  I had to pay for my drink, but with the dish being free, I couldn’t complain.  It was interesting seeing veterans and active duty members of various branches of the service in the Applebee’s.  Some showed up in uniform, some didn’t, but you could almost always tell who was military or a veteran at a glance.  I guess something of the culture stays with you.

After my friend and I left Applebee’s we decided to avail ourselves of another offer we’d seen posted around the Internet: the free six inch sub from Subway.  So, I pulled out my phone, looked up Subway on Google Maps, and away we went.  We walked into the Subway at 136 W 44th Street and asked about the offer.  We were told that Subway didn’t have any offer like that, and they couldn’t do anything for us.  So, we walked out and we decided we’d try a different location.  First, I looked up Subway again on Google Maps and then decided to call ahead, before we wasted a bunch of time walking all over the city.  I decided to call the 126 West 41st Street location, since it was the next closest, and the woman that answered said she’d never heard of what I was talking about either.  However, she said she would make an exception and honor the deal we told her was posted all over the Internet, but we’d have to buy a drink along with the free sandwiches.  It was better than nothing, so we went ahead and took her up on it.  While we were there, other veterans came through the door asking about the deal.  According to them, they’d tried to avail of the offer earlier at a Subway near Port Authority but had been turned down there as well.

Later, when I got home, I looked up the offer online and saw that it was marked specifically as being at only certain locations, but based on my experience and hearing from those other vets, I get the feeling that none of the Subways in New York City were honoring the Veterans Day deal, except the one where I talked the girl into partially fulfilling it.  Maybe we’d all just had bad luck in which locations we’d walked into though.

I think it’s a shame that any Subway wouldn’t fully honor the agreement as advertised.  It is Veterans Day after all!  One day a year to say thank you to the people who make sure that places like Subway can remain operating in a free country.  One day a year to give out a sandwich to say thanks.  Oh well.  I’ll just remember that for next year.

Overall, it was a great evening, catching up with an old buddy, getting a free meal, and walking around Times Square.  I’m looking forward to doing the same again next year.  Maybe more people I used to serve with will be in the area and we can arrange to meet up!