Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Applebee's Thank You

For the last couple of years, Pam and I have visited Applebee's for their annual 'Thank You Meal to Veterans'.  We went to the one nearest us in Huntington Beach.  It was crowded but after 25 minutes we were asked if we minded having others join us at our large table.  'No, that would be fine' we said.

Shortly we were joined by Ken and Alan, who didn't know each other.  Later we were joined by Russell.  Thus began one of the most interesting times of camaraderie we have had in a while.

After introductions, Ken pulled out a couple of photos he had of himself as a young man in Korea during the Korean War.
What a fascinating story:  he got drafted into the Army in 1949 and was selected after Basic to go to Advanced Basic Training.  Then he was shipped out to K-2 (Taegu Korea).  From there as an infantryman, he marched north, crossing the DMZ in the frozen winter.  It was very hard.  He said he didn't think about it much, he just did it, in the cold, sleeping under his poncho with his field gear.  It is hard to fathom what they went through.

Then, after going north, they were driven south back to the tip of what became South Korea near Pusan.  With the landing of MacArthur in Inchon, tide of the war turned in the favor of the UN forces.
I found this at koreanwaronline.com

During the war, he suffered frostbite and almost lost his trigger finger which was a common problem. Medics were going to remove it but when he said he wouldn't be able to shoot his M-1, they took him through a very intensely painful thawing out process.  It worked and he retained his crooked finger.

After the war, he went to college, determined to get make something of himself.  He got a degree in Chemistry, and got a government job at the Atomic Energy Commission.   He found he wasn't really enjoying it there, but he was stuck.  He said, "once you are in, they don't let you leave the AEC".  But they let him get a masters degree, so he pursued that.  And then a PhD but this time in physics.  He ended up in the Northwest working for Boeing near Seattle for a few years before returning to Southern California.

After retiring from his professional career, he pursued a Master of Divinity Degree at Biola and then has been active in starting a number of Asian congregations in the area.  He bought a house in the 1960's for $26,000 far from Applebee's and it is now worth a lot of money.  He has had an interesting life and is still going strong at 84.

Alan is an Army Viet Nam vet and has done a number of things over the years.  After the downturns in the economy he became a local realtor.  He has sold property in a lot of places including California and Hawaii.

Russell was in the Navy and grew up in Southern California.  He recalled trips growing with his family throughout the West.  His dad would pick small towns and they would hang out at the local soda fountain shop to learn about life among the regular folks throughout California and Idaho.

Before we left we got a group photo:
Alan, Randy, Pam, Ken, Russell

It was a couple of hours having a wonderful evening making new friends.  And hearing each other's stories and enjoying a fantastic Veteran's Day meal.  I don't know how they do it, but there were hundreds of Vets through out the day getting fed.  A BIG thank you to Applebee's.  It was special!

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!  And thanks for the comments and emails, we appreciate them.  Hope you all have a great week!  Until next time...


  1. What a lovely story. Sometimes people just want to sit all by themselves, but I think you may be missing out on meeting some extraordinary people. We like to sit with a bunch. Thanks for sharing such a nice blog.

  2. What a nice experience to have shared! Thanks! Randy served in Vietnam but never got the wonderful welcomes home that the current vets get. Thanks goodness it has changed so much since Vietnam! Thanks again for sharing, both the post and the table!

  3. Thank you for sharing your experience and introducing us to these fine vets.

  4. Applebees gave us a fine diner also, we had our own table between active duty Army groups and across from a WWII vet with an attitude. Not quite the same atmosphere, but a fine "Thanks for serving" from Applebees. Thank You!

  5. What a cool story! Thank you for sharing and thank you for serving.

  6. What an interesting evening. Would have enjoyed meeting these men and hearing their stories, especially Ken. We had a free meal at Red Robin. So nice of the restaurants to honor vets in this way.

  7. What an interesting story. How nice of Applebee's to honor you all. Thanks to you and your new friends for your service.