It's Veterans Day, and you'll forgive me for this, but I'm the proud owner of a DD-214 from the United States Army. There's no more patriotic activity for any veteran today than to play "free stuff golf"--going from one restaurant and retailer to the next, taking advantage of all their free offers.
One of my favorite comics these days is Terminal Lance, written by artist and Marine Corps veteran Maximilian Uriarte, whose characters have this thing down pat. (It's win-win, right? Veterans get free stuff; corporations get to wrap themselves in the flag.)
The most comprehensive list of free stuff for veterans that I've found is at MilitaryBenefits.info, with at least 153 offers by my count. Here's a quick sample--and a consumption itinerary that will leave any veteran looking forward to the day after Veterans Day.
(Attention corporate PR people, and anyone else who wants me to include your business's offer in this tour: Contact me here, and if it's really, really awesome, maybe we'll add it at the end.)
Stop No. 1: Early morning coffee.
This won't be our only cup of coffee, believe me--but we'll start the day at Starbucks: a free cup of coffee for veterans (also, free college tuition for their families, but that's another story).
Stop No. 2: Early morning workout.
By the end of this day, we probably won't be in any shape to work out. So we'll hit the UFC Gym, which is offering free use of its facilities to veterans and their families. (If we had planned ahead, we might be wearing some new threads from Under Armour, which offers a 15 percent discount for vets.)
Stop No. 3: Breakfast.
Oh, the choices--Bob Evans, Ihop, Denny's (all you can eat pancakes), and White Castle (I'm in New York City, so of course), where "Veterans ... receive free breakfast slider and small coffee or small soft drink on Veterans Day."
Stop No. 4: Morning excursion.
The U.S. National Park Service offers free admission for veterans. Maybe it's a bit of a haul to go to Yosemite or Badlands. Since this tour starts in New York, we can go to one of my favorite places--the Teddy Roosevelt Birthplace. (D'oh, turns out it's closed. But it's worth a visit when it reopens next year.)
Stop No. 5: Lunch.
Again, the choices: Hooters (free meal), Panera (1 free You Pick 2--although I'm not sure whether you get the second "Pick 2"). Actually, there's an Olive Garden down the street from my office. I've never been there, but it's offering "a free meal including entrees, freshly baked garlic breadsticks, and a choice of unlimited soup or salad," so maybe it's time to give them a shot.
Stop No. 6: Afternoon coffee.
Black, no sugar of course. This time at Coffee Beanery, where you can get a free tall cup.
Stop No. 7: Errands.
I've been meaning to get the oil changed in my car. Today's the day, with Meineke offering free service at all of its--wait, all of its participating locations. After that, perhaps a little shopping? World Market offers 20 percent off everything for veterans. Brooks Brothers offers 25 percent off, while Steve Madden has 20 percent off for everyone, plus an additional 10 percent off for veterans. Ikea--wait, Ikea only offers a free entrée. Oh well, you might get hungry again.
Stop No. 8: Beer.
Weirdly, there's only one restaurant or retailer on this entire list offering to buy a vet a beer: World of Beer, which offers a single free draft beer to anyone with a military ID or proof of service. Note to country--buy a vet a drink, why dontcha?
Stop No. 9: Late-afternoon snack.
There are a number of restaurants offering just appetizers or sides. So rather than eating dinner at these, we'll bounce from one to the next. Bonefish Grill might be the first stop (complimentary Bang Bang Shrimp, whatever that is), followed by Buffalo Wild Wings (one small order of wings for free), California Tortilla (a single free taco), and in case you haven't had to run to the vomitorium yet, a free Bloomin' Onion and a beverage at Outback Steakhouse.
Stop No. 10: Dinner.
Dinner's going to be huge, right? Applebee's offers a free meal--but only from a limited menu. Still, the price is right. Black Angus Steakhouse offers a free steakhouse cheeseburger and fries--again, not exactly the entire menu, but, you know, TYFYS. McCormick and Schmick's also offers a free entrée. (It has one of the few offers that specifies you have to eat at the restaurant, which suddenly makes me realize we could have hit dozens of others on this list and just gotten takeout.)
Stop No. 11: Dessert.
A free slice of pie at Coco's Bakery, a free Double Chocolate Fudge Coca-Cola Cake dessert at Cracker Barrel, a free doughnut (and small coffee) at Krispy Kreme, an 11-ounce frozen yogurt at Orange Leaf ... and maybe that's about it. Until next year.