Although it wasn't actually Veterans Day, two Fort Dodge dining establishments took the time to honor veterans a day later as a way to say thank you for their service to the country. Hy-Vee and Perkins both offered free breakfasts to veterans starting bright and early Monday morning, and both expected to serve several hundred people.
At Hy-Vee, a free breakfast buffet of eggs, cheesy hashbrowns, biscuits and gravy and sausage was served starting at 6 a.m. with veterans eagerly awaiting to be served. Extra tables and chairs provided by the Noon Sertoma Club were set up into the aisle near the kitchen in anticipation of a large crowd.
"We even had a few come in before 6," said Tim Flaherty, store director at the Fort Dodge Hy-Vee Store. "We've seen a lot of happy, smiling veterans today."
For many veterans, the Hy-Vee breakfast is something they look forward to every year.
"We come out every year for Veterans Day," said Ray Witzke, a Vietnam veteran from Fort Dodge. "The real nice thing here is that they serve our spouses too, and that's awesome."
Larry and Dorothy Kloss, of Fort Dodge, also attend the breakfast on an annual basis.
"We come out every year," said Dorothy Kloss. "It's always very good food. It takes a lot of work to prepare a lot of food like that, it's nice that they do it."
By 11 a.m. Flaherty estimated that more than 500 veterans had been served breakfast.
"It's something every Hy-Vee does," he said. "It's an honor for us to be able to serve and thank them."
At Perkins, which is in its first year of business in Fort Dodge, free "Magnificent Seven" breakfast platters of eggs, pancakes, sausage and bacon were offered all day to any veteran diners.
Vietnam veterans Al Darland and Brady Willard, of Eagle Grove made sure they came to Fort Dodge specifically for breakfast at Perkins.
"They have such good breakfasts here, we said we had to come over," said Darland.
Both had also had a free veterans lunch at Applebee's on Sunday.
"It's really nice that these establishments do this for us," said Willard.
"We sure appreciate what they're doing," said Darland. "They support the veterans. I'll eat at these places anytime because of that reason."
Leon Klemisch, managing partner with Perkins, said around 200 veterans had been served Monday morning, but he expected more throughout the day.
"We added a few extra employees for the day," said Klemisch. "Our dining room was full this morning."
Klemisch said it had been fun to serve veterans and hear their stories.
"It's been really neat to see them come in, some have on their uniforms, some had hats and patches," he said. "There have been veterans from World War II, Korea, Vietnam. even Afghanistan and Iraq."
A Veterans Day breakfast will become an annual tradition at Perkins, Klemisch said.
"We've already exceeded our expectations, we'll do this again next year."