The COVID-19 pandemic may have in some ways changed how Veterans Day was celebrated, but the meaning of the day was not forgotten Wednesday.
As customers pulled up to a drive-thru coffee and breakfast tent for veterans at Hy-Vee on West Truman Boulevard, employees greeted those who came through and thanked them with a hearty, "Thank you for your service."
Some even showed their military IDs to verify they had served, but store manager Rod Dolph told them,"I trust you. I'm glad you're here, and we can serve you."
"Typically, we would serve 1,200-1,400 veterans a breakfast, but it's different this year," Dolph said. "Normally, we'd have lines out the door. The thing I'm sorry for most is the camaraderie these folks will miss out on this year. Many times, they'd just come here to get a cup of coffee and talk for a while, and I love to see that."
Veteran Alan Mengwasser, who served in the U.S. Army from 1969-71, said he appreciated what Hy-Vee and other businesses were doing to honor those who served their country.
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"I was able to go on the Honor Flight in Washington a few years ago," Mengwasser said. "Three of my brothers were in Vietnam, and I served in Korea. It was an honor to serve, and I was proud to do it."
Veteran Eric Gray served in the U.S. Army as an ammunitions specialist from 1984-87 in Germany. For him, serving in the military was carrying on a family tradition.
"My son, Anakin, just enlisted, and he'll be the fourth generation serving in the Army," Gray said. "My grandfather and my father served in the Army, and my father-in-law also is a veteran. He served in Vietnam."
Veteran Bill Brennecke served three years in the U.S. Army, two of those years were served in France.
"I lucked out because I got in after Korea, and I got out before Vietnam started," Brennecke said. "I kept thinking they'd call me back, but they never did."
Brennecke said he's proud to be a veteran, but people should give the biggest tributes to those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
"There's a lot of guys laying around the world in foreign soil who gave their lives while serving," Brennecke said. "Even today, you go to the veterans homes or hospitals around the country, and you see the guys missing an arm or a leg. They are the ones we need to remember."