On Tuesday, the nation as a whole will mark Veterans Day with the solemn laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. The ceremony will begin at 11 a.m. sharp.
The event is intended to thank and honor all U.S. Armed Forces veterans — living and deceased — who have served their nation through its 238 years of existence.
Though its roots lie in the Nov. 11, 1918, cease fire during World War I — coming at the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” — the holiday has evolved through the decades into “a celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good,” according to a history passage on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website.
Today, there are more than 22 million living veterans worldwide, according to VA data. Of those, 752,882 are from Georgia and 413,618 from Alabama, as of Sept. 30.
The holiday is perhaps a bit more special in the Columbus area, with the longtime presence of Fort Benning, the infantry and armor post that supports more than 120,000 active-duty soldiers, retirees, civilian employees and family members on any given day.
That said, Veterans Day also has become a holiday for businesses across the nation to say thanks in their own way — with everything from free food and beverages to no-charge haircuts and car washes.
What follows is a list of offerings this year, compiled from emails to the Ledger-Enquirer and online sources such as military.com. Note that the deals typically require the presentation of some form of current military-related identification card or a DD 214 military discharge form. All offers are good Nov. 11 unless otherwise stated, and participation locations and hours can vary nationwide.
The thank-you deals include:
Applebee’s — Free entree from special Veteran’s Day menu, beverages not included, all day. Columbus locations at 2513 Airport Thruway and 3229 Gentian Blvd. Phenix City outlet at 2090 U.S. Hwy. 280
Carmike Cinemas — Free small popcorn for military personnel and dependents with valid ID
Columbus Technical College — Veterans Day program, 11 a.m. in McCaulley Auditorium, 928 Manchester Expressway. Free lunch afterward with meal tickets available at Hartline Information Desk, CARE Center and Wright Health Sciences Center
Denny’s — Free “Build Your Own Grand Slam” meal from 5 a.m. to noon. Columbus location at 3239 Macon Road
Golden Corral — Free buffet meal and beverage NOT on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, but instead on Nov. 17, 5-9 p.m. Columbus outlet at 1505 Manchester Expressway. Identification not required
Goo-Goo 3 Minute Express Wash — Free express wash at Whitesville Road, Mercury Drive and Gateway Road locations in Columbus, and the Bent Creek Road and South College Street outlets in Auburn, Ala.
Great Clips — Free haircut on Nov. 11 or receive a card valid for a haircut through Dec. 31. Non-veterans can purchase a service and receive a card to give to a veteran. Columbus locations at 5550 Whittlesey Blvd., 1591 Bradley Park Drive and 3201 Macon Road
Hooters — Free meal up to $10.99 in value with a drink purchase all day. Columbus location at 2650 Adams Farm Drive
IHOP — Free red, white and blue pancakes 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Photograph in uniform or military dog tags also accepted as ID. Includes Airport Thruway, Talokas Lane and Northlake Parkway locations in Columbus and U.S. Hwy. 280 outlet in Phenix City
Krystal — Free sausage biscuit from 6-10:30 a.m. Columbus locations at 3029 Manchester Expressway, 3446 Victory Drive, 4823 Buena Vista Road and 5412 Veterans Parkway. Phenix City location at 1006 U.S. Hwy. 280
LongHorn Steakhouse — Free Texas Tonion and non-alcoholic beverage all day. Columbus outlets at 5435 Whittlesey Blvd. and 3201 Macon Road
Olive Garden — Free meal from a limited menu, all day. Columbus location at 5555 Whittlesey Blvd.
Outback Steakhouse — Free Bloomin’ Onion appetizer and beverage. Columbus location at 5592 Whitesville Road
Red Lobster — Free appetizer. Columbus locations at 5555 Whittlesey Blvd. and 1425 13th St.
Red Robin — Free Tavern Double burger with fries, all day. Columbus location at 5550 Whittlesey Blvd.
Ruby Tuesday — Free appetizer, all day. Columbus locations at 6780 Veterans Parkway and 3431 Manchester Expressway (Peachtree Mall)
Smokey Bones — Free meal from “on the house” menu, including premium burger, pulled pork platter and nutty chicken salad. Columbus location at 5555 Whittlesey Blvd.
Sport Clips — Free haircut. Columbus location at 5413 Whittlesey Blvd.
Starbucks — Free 12 fl. oz. brewed coffee to veterans and military spouses. Columbus outlets at 1522 Bradley Park Drive and 4519 Woodruff Road
Texas Roadhouse — Free lunch (11 a.m.-2 p.m.). Choose from 10 entrees, including sirloin steak, two sides and non-alcoholic beverage. Columbus location at 2970 Northlake Parkway
TGI Fridays — Free lunch from a select menu from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Columbus location at 3116 Adams Farm Drive
Wingstop — Five free wings at 2528 Weems Road location in Columbus
Zoës Kitchen — Free entree from veterans and 10 percent off for family members. Columbus location at 5413 Whittlesey Blvd.