Applebee’s Chelsea supporting troops

By TONY NIVENS / Community Columnist

“Applebee’s loves serving our veterans. We appreciate their service to the country,” said Christin Barnett, marketing manager for Chelsea Applebee’s. “Every Veterans Day we feed all of our veterans that come in for free. It is such a thrill. I just love being around them all day. They are such a blessing.”

Applebee’s serves both current and former veterans.

“We try to do it up right. We will have our Boy Scouts Troop 354 to honor the colors. We will also have all the Branch Flags displayed. I have someone helping with that so we have everything displayed the right way,” Barnett said. “We have a table for service pictures and a Wall of Thanks where patrons can leave thank you messages.”

This year Barnett planned to do a little something extra for one veteran.

“We heard from my friend Susan Conn that Joseph Wilkerson was the oldest veteran in Shelby County to receive the Asiatic Pacific Medal for his service in World War II,” said Barnett. “We wanted to give him a special plaque to honor his service.”

During WWII, Wilkerson served with the 20th Recon Squadron, 5th Army Air Corp, where he received the Asiatic Pacific Campaign Victory Medal.

“We were talking with his daughter-in-law, who was planning to be here with him for the event,” said Barnett.

Unfortunately for his family and our sense of history, Wilkerson passed away Oct. 26 in the midst of planning. But Barnett will continue plans to honor his service.

Conn, business owner of Main Street Florist in neighboring Columbiana, posted to Facebook: “Sad news to report, our friend, Mr. Joe Wilkerson passed away. He was one of the oldest WWII vets remaining in Shelby County. We are losing our history.”

“I didn’t know him well enough to be crying, but I was,” said Barnett. “It was so sad. We still want to honor him though. He knew he was being recognized for his service. His daughter-in-law told him and he was pleased. We will change the plaque to honor his memory and service.”

Chelsea Applebee’s is owned by 280 local Fred Gustin.

“Mr. Gustin owns Quality Restaurant Concepts and they have 63 Applebee’s in the area,” said Barnett. “They have been serving veterans a long time. We have special veterans parking and all of the veteran’s discounts.”

Applebee’s also sponsors fundraising and donations of special “track chairs” for disabled veterans.

“We were able to donate five track chairs last year,” Barnett said. “You should have seen the faces of the recipients. The special tracks let them get back out into the outdoors, in the woods they love. They weren’t able to do that with regular wheelchairs.”

Applebee’s Veterans Day menu is available this year on Saturday, Nov. 11.

“We will open half an hour early at 10:30,” said Barnett, “And we expect a line. I can’t wait.”