Free lunch honors veterans, public safety officers

By Lena Mitchell/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Sweet Peppers Deli restaurants rolled out the red carpet on Memorial Day Monday to welcome veterans, law enforcement officers, emergency responders and military service personnel to a complimentary entrée at any of their restaurants.
By noon several people had come in to the Sweet Peppers Deli on West Main Street in Tupelo, and store manager Stephen Lewis expected to see many more throughout the day.
“We’ve had good years every year with it companywide,” Lewis said. “We usually have people from the fire department, ambulance service, police departments and veterans all day.”
Lewis worked at the Peppers in The Mall at Barnes Crossing the past six years and said there always were plenty of eligible people coming through.
Four members of the Lee County Sheriff’s Office – Sgt. John Tutor, Deputy Seth Thomas, Deputy Mitchell Ridges and Deputy Sam Riley – said they appreciated the business’ generosity in extending the hospitality to them.
“Several different restaurants do this, and this year we decided to come here,” Tutor said.
Veteran Mike Terry, who served in the U.S. Army from 1966-1969, was picking up carryout for himself and his wife Mary.
“I’m not often here, but we drove up the Trace from Aberdeen,” Terry said. “We decided to put the top down on the Mustang and go for a drive, and now we’re going to have a picnic lunch.”
For more than 10 years, restaurants in the Eat With Us Group, as well as Sweet Peppers Deli franchises in Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee, have participated in the annual event. In 2005, the event received the Mississippi Restaurant Neighbor Award from the National Restaurant Association.
Joe Gurley of Verona, a firefighter for both the Verona and Shannon fire departments, came up to share lunch with his mother, Pat Holland.
Gurley, who will soon be 35, said he’s been a firefighter all of his adult life.
“His dad, Rickey Gurley Sr., was Verona’s fire chief for 25 years, so it’s kind of in his blood,” Holland said. Even though she didn’t qualify for the free meal, Holland said she grew up an “Army brat,” so has a keen appreciation for people in the many areas of public safety.
Gurley said he has extended family members in both law enforcement and in firefighting in Lee County.
“What we do is tough, so I think it’s great that they do this to show appreciation,” Gurley said.
lena.mitchell@journalinc.com