By Mike Fletcher Kokomo Tribune
---- — Area businesses and associations are teaming up once again to offer discounts to area veterans as part of Military Appreciation Days.
Sponsored by the Military Foundation, the week leading up to Veterans Day will feature a variety of events geared around those who fight for our freedoms.
In addition, 75 businesses will be offering discounts and free items for veterans beginning Saturday and running through Nov. 11. The event’s kick-off with the 5th Annual Military Appreciation Ball from 7 p.m. to midnight Friday at the Ivy Tech Kokomo Event Center.
An opening ceremony to begin the week will be at 10 a.m. Monday at the Stephen A. Daily Government Center (City Hall).
Discounts ranging from chiropractic services to free lawnmower blade sharpening to a number of food discounts are available throughout the week.
Rick Riddle, former manager of the Golden Corral Restaurant, came up with the idea of having a week-long celebration for veterans in 2009. Riddle for years offered free meals to veterans on Veterans Day and wanted to expand on that by teaming up with different businesses in the city. That first year, 38 businesses were involved. It’s now expanded to 75, said Gary Loveless, coordinator for the Military Appreciation Days.
“This is growing to the point where people are looking forward to it,” said Loveless of the week.
“We’re pleased and proud that the military foundation can continue to put this on in support of our military personnel and veterans in Kokomo and Howard County,” he said.
Chris Roegner, owner of Half Moon Restaurant & Brewery, took over as president after Riddle left Kokomo. Riddle is now manager of the Golden Corral in Evansville.
“Rick for years as had his own Military Appreciation Monday for veterans. He came to me and ask if I could do the same type of thing and I said ‘absolutely,” said Roegner. “I shared his vision of a city-wide campaign to show our appreciation to military families.”
Roegner credited the volunteers for making the week such a success.
“Its only through the hard work of all the volunteers. It’s the behind the scenes people doing all the work It’s extremely rare for a business once they hear about it don’t want to part of it.’’
After a week of discounts, veterans also will be treated to a two-hour concert by American Legacy Tour staring Vietnam veteran and country music star Ronnie McDowell.
The concert fundraiser to benefit the Disabled American Veterans will begin 7 p.m. Nov. 10 at Kokomo High School auditorium, 2501 S. Berkley Road.
Performers include McDowell, and Jimmy Buffett’s Coral Reefer band members Nadirah Shakoor, Doyle Grisham, former Coral Reefer member Amy Lee, gospel music’s Florida Boys artist Matt Hoggart and country music’s Coley McCabe, Thom Shepherd and Lee Gibson.
“They were in St. Louis and heard about Kokomo and wanted to do it,” said Ladd.
“It just tells me Kokomo does have a good reputation for veterans. They are excited to come to Kokomo.”
Tickets for the show are $25 and can be purchased at Half Moon Restaurant & Brewery, 4051 S. Lafountain St., or by logging on to www.americanlegacytour.com or www.facebook.com/americanlegacy tour.
Money raised during the event will go towards a new DAV van that needs to replace the current one that transports area veterans to VA hospitals, said Bob Ladd, former Howard County Veteran’s service officer. Ladd now serves as state adjutant for DAV.
“It’s got about 200,000 miles on it,” Ladd said of the current van.
The van transfers about 1,000 veterans a year to Marion, Indianpolis and on occasion to Fort Wayne. On average, the van runs 20,000 to 30,000 miles a year and has been on the road since 2004.
“It’s way overdue,” said Ladd. “For a lot of veterans the only health care they have is through the VA and they have to get there somehow.”
Military Appreciation Days schedule of events• 10 a.m. Friday - 5th Annual Military Appreciation Ball at Ivy Tech Kokomo Event Center on U.S. 31 North. • 10 a.m. Monday - 2013 MADays Opening Ceremony at Stephen J. Daily Government Center, Louk's Council Chambers (City Hall), 100 S. Union St. • 10 a.m. Wednesday - MADays Bingo at Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1152, 920 N. Washington St. • 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday - Stand Down at VFW Post 1152. • 5 to 7 p.m. Friday - auction for Jackson Street Commons at VFW Post 1152. • 7 a.m. Nov. 9 - MADays Breakfast at Ibn Saud Grotto, 150 S. Reed Road. • 11 a.m., Nov. 9 - Hog Runners Ride at Ibn Saud Grotto. • 6 p.m. Nov. 9 - USO Show 1940's dinner and show at Continental Ball Room, 920 Milbrook Lane. • 7 p.m. Nov. 10 - American Legacy Tour staring Ronnie McDowell (DAV van fundraiser) at Kokomo High School auditorium, 2501 S. Berkley Road. • 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Nov. 11 - DAV/Golden Corral Military Monday at Golden Corral on U.S. 31 South. • 1 p.m. Nov. 17 - 2nd Annual Military Foundation Bowling Tournament at Kokomo Sports Bowl, 2021 Cedar Crest Dr.