A free meal says thanks to those who serve

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – It may have been a small token, but it meant much to Tupelo’s Smith Heavner.
On a day when the country remembered its fallen soldiers, three Tupelo restaurants honored area veterans and other service personnel.
For the 10th consecutive year, the Eat With Us Group and Sweet Peppers Franchise Systems offered a free entree for firemen, policemen, emergency response technicians, armed services personnel and veterans on Memorial Day.
Those meals were available at Sweet Peppers Deli, Harveys and Fairpark Grill in Tupelo, and several other restaurants in the region.
Heavner, an army infantry medic in the Korean War, had a free prime rib sandwich for lunch from Harveys.
“I think it is great,” Heavner said. “A lot of people say they remember to honor veterans and a lot of them don’t, but I’m not complaining. They’ve been real good to me.”
Heavner and his wife, Sarah, learned of the promotion after having dinner at Harveys on Friday night. They came not long after attending Monday’s Memorial Day program at Veterans Park.
Meanwhile Capt. Tim Sudduth of the Tupelo Fire Department came to Sweet Peppers with Sgt. Brian Reese and firefighter Arthur Preston after the three left Fire Station No. 2 to respond to a call.
The call turned out not to be serious, so when the three men left, they changed out of their fire fighting suits and back into their dress suits to enjoy the meal.
“It is nice for folks to let us know they appreciate us,” Sudduth said. “Our motto is we help people. When we get a day like today, and people help us with lunch, it is nice.”
Sudduth said it is difficult not to be able to spend the holiday with family members, and it means a lot to see that other people are thinking of them.
“They are here working on a holiday at the restaurant,” he said.
Sam Boxx, the general manager at Sweet Pepper’s said the restaurant fed a little more than 20 veterans and service workers through the lunchtime hour and expected to see more for dinner.
“It was awesome,” she said. “It makes working Memorial Day worth it.”
Harveys had fed about 50 or 60 uniformed people or veterans by 1 p.m., manager Carla Weldon said, and the Grill had another 25 or so during that time, said assistant manger Amy Thomas. Both also expected more customers as the day progressed.
“I feel like Memorial Day has become about barbecue, and it is not based on anything like that,” Thomas said. “This is our way of saying thank you to the families and the community for all they do for us each and every day.”
Tammie Martin, shift supervisor for North Mississippi Medical Center’s ambulance service, said her group took turns eating lunch at the Grill.
“We appreciate them thinking of us,” she said.
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com