On Nov. 13, Golden Corral will open their doors for their annual “thank you” dinner for any person who served in the U.S. Military (veterans, retirees, active duty, National Guard and Reserves). This dinner is immensely popular, with lines that have been known to wrap around the buildings. According to the corporation website, more than 5.1 million free meals and more than $12.9 million have been contributed to the Disabled American Veterans (DAV).

“About 15 years ago, the Golden Corral Corporation made the decision to give free meals to veterans,” said Rex Ritchie, commander of the DAV, Chapter 28. “They chose the DAV to be the recipient of the sponsorship of the free meals.”

The DAV doesn’t directly benefit from the sales of the day; rather they are allowed to be in the restaurants taking donations and holding raffles to raise money for the organization. They will have raffles for a 20-foot flag pole, 43” 4K flat screen television and other items like gift cards and plaques.

Ritchie said the benefit is two-fold. The DAV can raise money, but more importantly, they can provide outreach to the veterans in attendance.

“It gives us a perfect opportunity, which is our primary goal, to educate the veterans what their benefits are or what is available. It gives us a platform to talk to and educate some of them, tell them about the DAV and go over some of the benefits they may be available for,” he said.

Ritchie said one of the biggest things the DAV provides is purchasing vehicles for the DAV transportation network that gives rides to veterans so they can make it to their appointments.

“People may not realize how important those vehicles are. They transport hundreds of thousands of miles,” said Ritchie. “The most recent vehicle we put in service was a Ford Flex.”

He said each county is responsible for providing vehicles for the network, and the local chapter was tasked with raising enough money to purchase a new vehicle.

“Without those vehicles, there are a lot of veterans that wouldn’t make their appointments,” he said. “Once our chapter fund raises enough to get another vehicle, we give it to the DAV transportation network which in turn gives them to the VA. The VA takes those vehicles, dispatches them, does the maintenance on them, and when they get a certain number of miles on them, they call me and say it’s time to buy another one.”

Golden Corral will begin providing the “thank you” dine-in only meal from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Nov. 13 at the Kokomo location as part of its military appreciation might.