'Thank you for your service'

SCOTIA, N.Y. -- Last week I had to stop at my children's school to drop off Halloween cupcakes for a celebration my son's class was having. Part of me wanted to quick change into my civilian clothes before going, but I just didn't have time. Just as I expected, kids saw me, and while some may have thought I was dressed up for Halloween, the others asked the question we've most likely all gotten: "Are you in the Army?" "Well, actually I'm in the Air Force." The girl, about 7 or 8, looked at me with a blank stare. "Yes, pretty much the same as the Army." About five more kids asked the same question as I walked down the hallway. On my way out, a mother said to me, "Wow, you're in the military? Good for you! Thank you for your service."

Thank you for your service. I get it many times while I'm out and about in uniform, and a sense of pride rushes through me every single time. While it's very humbling to get thanked for just doing your job, I think about those, like my father and grandfather, who fought in the Korean War and Vietnam. Those veterans are the ones I think of who have served our country to the fullest. The Soldier who came back from Iraq with PTSD, the Airman who came back missing a limb ... the Marine who didn't come back at all. While it doesn't begin to compare to what these servicemembers endured, I then think about my deployment more than eight years ago to Afghanistan.

I was in Kabul, and it was actually very peaceful during my deployment. I hooked up with Civil Affairs and went on some community outreach missions where we went to refugee camps with medicine, clothes and toys to hand out. It was right around the holidays, and it was so cold. I was dressed in my winter gear, and looked over and saw a young girl holding her baby brother. Neither had any socks and their shoes were five sizes too big. They didn't wear coats, and just like that I felt like a jerk for complaining about the cold. I personally got some socks from our donation box (along with a couple of toys) and made sure they put them on. We handed out more clothes and toys to what seemed like hundreds of people. It was the first time in my military career where I felt like I was truly making a difference. It shouldn't have been though.

All of us took the oath to serve our country, and for that alone, each one of us should be proud to wear the uniform, and proud of the jobs we do. Whether you're in the field supporting Operation Enduring Freedom, on the ice supporting Operation Deep Freeze, or even supporting the mission at home, be proud of what you do. All of us in the armed services play a part in defending our nation and our state.

This Veteran's Day, businesses in communities everywhere are thanking veterans, past and present, with special offers. Enjoy the day off with these offers, and if you see a fellow veteran, thank him or her for their service.

Veterans Day Discounts
Participation: Always call ahead to verify locations, times, and participation. Many of the listed companies are franchises and may have different policies. The following list of deals and free offers does not imply any official endorsement by the DoD.

· Applebees: Stop into a participating Applebee's on Monday, November 11, 2013 to get your Veterans day free meal. Will need proof Military service.
· Chili's: Veterans and active duty can get a free entrée all day from a special limited menu on Veterans Day, Monday, Nov. 11. The menu includes Chicken Crispers, Margarita Chicken, and Classic Turkey Sandwich.
· Olive Garden: Veterans Day free meal for all veterans on Monday, November 11, 2013.
· Denny's -- Free Grand Slam breakfast to any veteran from. Participating markets include select diners in Maryland, Virginia, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Indiana, Colorado and Washington, DC (from 6:00am - 2:00pm), as well as the following New York locations: Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo areas (from 6:00am - 10:00pm).
· Outback Steakhouse: Veterans get a free Bloomin' Onion and beverage. This offer is for veterans as well as active duty and retired Military. Plus Military discount of 10% off from 11/12-12/31.
· Golden Corral: Free Meals for any one who has served in the Military from 4pm-9pm.
· Carrabba's: FREE Appetizer on 11/11 for Veterans. Will need proof of Military Service.
· Red Lobster: Free Appetizer from 11/11-11/14 for Veterans.
· Subway: FREE 6 inch Sub or Flatbread for Veterans. Will need proof of Military service.
· T.G.I. Friday's - Free Lunch, Monday Nov 11, 2013. Valid for all US Military personnel and veterans.
· Outback Steakhouse - A week of Free Bloomin' Onions and Cokes Friday Nov. 8 - Monday Nov. 11 2013. Outback Steakhouse is honoring America's military veterans by offering active duty military and veterans a free Bloomin' Onion and a Coca-Cola product during the week leading up to Veteran's Day. This offer is available to Military Personnel with ID.
· UNO Chicago Grill -- UNO is offering a 19.43 percent discount on food and non-alcoholic beverage beverages to vets and military. The chain explains that 1943 was the year UNO invented the deep dish pizza.
· Buca di Beppo Italian Restaurants -- Special offers for vets on Veterans Day.

· FREE Haircuts at SportClips
· Free Car wash through http://graceforvets.org/2013/participating.php
· Bed Bath and Beyond is offering a 20% off entire purchase Nov 9, 10 and 11 in honor of Veterans Day.
· Amazon.com -- A free downloadable MP3 album includes 12 songs performed by military bands and ensembles from now through Veterans Day.
· The Dollar General -- Veterans, service members and their immediate families can receive a 10-percent discount with a Veterans Day coupon.
· Home Depot -- Offers a 10 percent discount to all veterans on Veterans Day. Home Depot offers a 10 percent discount year-round to active duty military and retirees.
· Lowe's -- All veterans receive the 10 percent discount for purchases of up to $5,000. A 10 percent discount is available year-round to active-duty military and retirees.
· Sam's Club -- Sam's Club will give away collapsible Hugo Canes on Veterans Day to military veterans who need them.
· Build-a-Bear Workshop -- Members of the armed services, including the Coast Guard and ROTC, receive a 20 percent discount on any one transaction at the workshop.
· Fashion Bug -- Offering 20 percent off all plus-size and misses clothing purchases with a copy of military ID or spouse's military ID.