Freebies and events for service members kickoff this weekend

Credit: N.C. Governor's Office

Credit: N.C. Governor’s Office

RALIEGH – With the third largest military population of any state in the country, Veterans Day in North Carolina is big time; or at least it should be. On you can find a list of parades and other events happening across the state in honor of the national holiday.

The site was set up to provide one-stop shopping for veterans looking for help with housing, education, healthcare, employment and other services, but it also has the fun stuff. It’s run by the new Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, which was established at the request of Gov. Pat McCrory in this year’s budget as a stand-alone cabinet agency. Former two-star Marine Corps Gen. Cornell Wilson was sworn in two weeks ago to take the helm of the agency. As the department’s first secretary, the spotlight will be on Wilson next week for Veterans Day.

Soldiers from the U.S. Army Reserve Command headquarters at Fort Bragg, N.C., march down Hay Street in the Fayetteville Veterans Day Parade, Nov. 9, 2013. The parade featured USARC, the 82nd Airborne Division, high school Junior ROTC, high school marching bands and veterans from past wars. (U.S. Army photo by Timothy L. Hale/Released)

Fort Bragg, N.C.

While parades and flags will decorate the landscape of towns across the state, businesses are rolling out deals for those who have served, hoping to serve them a free meal or two. Some deals start as early as this weekend, so make your plans now to take advantage of as many as you can.

Veterans and current service members need to show proof of military service, either a Military ID Card (active/reserve/retired), VA ID card, Current Leave and Earnings Statement (LES), a Veterans Organization Card (American Legion and VFW), discharge paperwork, or the new North Carolina’s driver’s license with veteran designation.  Governor McCrory spearheaded the new DOT program last year that allows veterans to have their service recognized right on their driver’s license.

If you are looking to walk off all those free meals, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior has announced that areas managed by the National Park Service would not charge entrance fees to anyone for Veterans Day weekend. In North Carolina that includes ten parks. North Carolina state parks are offering events for veterans throughout the week as well.

So, military card in hand, call these establishments ahead and go claim your Veteran’s Day goodies. The following offers are for veterans and current service members:

Carraba’s, Monday Nov. 9 – Sunday Nov. 15. Free appetizer of your choice for active duty servicemembers and veterans.

PDQ Tenders, Nov. 11.  PDQ Free 3 piece Tenders or Sandwich with a military ID or uniform. PDQ also offers 50 percent off the entire order for all active/retired military personnel on the first Monday every month.

Red Lobster, Monday, Nov. 9 -Thursday, Nov. 12. Free Appetizer or dessert during the week of Veterans Day.

Applebee’s,  Nov. 11. Free meal to military veterans and active-duty service members on Veterans Day.

Bob Evans, Nov. 11. Free all-you-can-eat hotcakes.

Bonanza Steakhouse, Nov. 11. Free Veterans Day buffet at participating locations.

Calhoun’s Restaurant, Nov. 11. Free meal, choice of Hickory Smoked Bar-B-Que Half Slab of Ribs, Hickory Smoked Bar-B-Que Pork Plate, “Ale” Steak, Fresh Chicken Calhoun, and Southern Fried Catfish.

California Pizza Kitchen, Nov. 11. Choose a pizza, full size salad, or pasta from the special Veterans Day Menu. Dine-in only.

Chili’s, Free meal, Nov. 11. Choice of any lunch combo, or your choice of a dinner meal from a select menu, including any full-size flatbread. Offer only available at participating Chili’s in the U.S. only. Dine-in from limited menu only.

Denny’s, Nov. 11, 5 a.m. until noon. Free build-your-own Grand Slam for all active, inactive, and retired military personnel.

Fatz Eatz & Drinkz, Nov. 11, 11 a.m. – close. Free World Famous Calabash Chicken® meal for current and former military members, 11 a.m. until close.

Fox & Hound and Bailey’s Sports Grille, Nov. 11. Free Sandwich or Entree (up to $10) for active-duty military and veterans.

Friendly’s, Nov. 11. Free breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Dine-in only. Limited to one per person.

Golden Corral, Nov. 11 (5 p.m. – 9 p.m.). The 15th annual Golden Corral Military Appreciation free dinner will is available to any person who has ever served in the United States Military.

Little Caesars Pizza, Nov. 11, 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Free pizza or $5 HOT-N-READY Lunch Combo to all U.S. Armed Forces veterans and active military members.

LongHorn Steakhouse,  Nov. 11. Complimentary Texas Tonion and non-alcoholic beverage.

Menchie’s, Nov. 11. All veterans and current servicemembers will receive a free 6 oz. frozen yogurt on Veterans Day.

O’Charley’s, Nov. 9. Free entree from the $9.99’er menu.

Olive Garden, Nov. 11, 2015.  free entrée for veterans/service members and guests that dine with a Veteran also receive 10 percent off of their bill.

On The Border, Nov. 11. Veterans and current servicemembers will receive a free choose 2 or choose 3 “Create Your Own Combo.”

Outback Steakhouse, Nov. 11. Outback Steakhouse is honoring America’s military veterans by offering active duty military and veterans a free Bloomin’ Onion and a non-alcoholic beverage. Also receive 15 percent off your purchase from Nov. 12-Dec. 31.

Red Robin, Nov. 11. Free Red’s Tavern Double and Bottomless Steak Fries.

Sheetz, Nov. 11. Free lunch and car wash at participating locations.

Sizzler Restaurants, Nov. 11. Free lunch served until 4 p.m. Choice of three entrees, and a free coffee, tea, or fountain drink. Not valid for salad bar or gratuity.

Shoney’s, Nov. 11. Free All-American Burger. Shoney’s also offers a 15 percent everyday hometown heroes discount (military, fire, Police, EMT).

T.G.I. Friday’s, Nov. 11, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Free lunch.

Tijuana Flats, Nov. 11. Free lunch. Free MP3 album download “Veterans Day Honor” Available at Amazon on Veterans Day.

Buckle Military receive 10 percent off online purchases every day at

Great Clips and Sports Clips are offering free hair cuts to Veterans on Veterans Day.

Arrow Haircuts in Raleigh offers $3 off to veterans and current military personnel every day.

Call ahead and confirm that your local business is participating in the discounts, and check for the latest deals.  In addition to the annual recognition some companies such as Home Depot and Lowe’s Home Improvement, offer military families a 10 percent discount all year, as long as you ask and show your military I.D. Anheuser-Busch Parks offers active-duty servicemembers free admission for them and up to three dependents to any of their theme parks once a year.