by Stephanie Beach
Traverse City Record-Eagle
---- — Sean Mugerian, a Traverse City resident and a student at Lake Superior State University, also serves with the 182nd reserve unit out of Traverse City. After weekend training recently, he and a fellow soldier, both still in uniform, were joined by three civilian friends at Sleder's Family Tavern, where they enjoyed a meal and each other's company.
After a "very good meal," a gentleman named John came over, thanked Sean and his fellow reservist for their service to their country, and told the group "this one's on me" and paid for all of their meals, adding that he had served in the military for six years.
"It was an amazing thing," Sean said.
Several area restaurants honored veterans on Veteran's Day by serving free meals. One caller to the Record-Eagle, who didn't leave his name, wanted to commend the waitstaff at Applebee’s for their willingness to help veterans.
The caller told how a waiter at the restaurant on Veteran's Day heard the man talking about an ailing fellow veteran who couldn’t make it to the restaurant. The waiter then returned with an expensive meal from the menu and asked him to take it to his sick friend. The caller did just that, and wanted to give credit to Applebee’s for such a nice act of kindness that made the day for his acquaintance.
Grand Traverse Horses 4 Heroes at Reining Liberty Ranch, a program that helps returning northern Michigan veterans, received a huge boost thanks to this year's Traverse City Patriot Game.
The ranch creates a safe place for northern Michigan veterans who have returned from war zones by offering an equine program for veterans coping with PTSD and other physical injuries.
The annual event was started in 2012 as a tribute to northern Michigan soldiers who were recently killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan and includes a ceremony prior to the West Senior High School vs. Central High School football game.
This year's game collected more than $13,000 through the sale of Patriot Game T-shirts, donations and concessions at the game. Organizers expect to donate $9,000 to the ranch.
"We are stunned by the amount of money raised by this community," said Reining Liberty Ranch Director Becky Bigelow. "But we are even more excited by the amount of public interest we've seen through this event. More veterans are seeking us out, and more people are offering their support."
The remaining funds will be used to build a permanent memorial at Thirlby Field for veterans and northern Michigan heroes who have been killed in action.
"It's so appropriate that this regional sports complex becomes a place to honor all those from our region who have paid the ultimate price while serving their country," said West Senior High School football coach Tim Wooer.
Wooer added that organizers are on track for design and approval of the memorial and hope to have it built by early summer 2014.