Veterans To Issue Free Christmas Eve Meal To Community

By KBJR News 1

December 23, 2012 Updated Dec 23, 2012 at 11:15 PM CDT

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com)

The sea going services call their dining halls a mess deck.
Other branches call it a mess hall.
At the VFW Post on Duluth's Michigan Street, there's no mess.
Dozens of volunteers have the place clean enough to pass the inspection of a drill instructor.
These folks are getting ready for the VFW's annual free Christmas Eve dinner.
It started 34 years ago when a member had a spare turkey.
Brad Bennet tells us what that fellow had to say.

"I got an extra turkey and don't need it for anybody. Let's cook it up and anybody who needs a meal, we'll do it."

From one bird feeding nine people, the event has grown to 65 turkeys and nearly five hundred diners.
Brian Reno is one of the volunteers who makes it happen.

"My duties are to back the kitchen up and I organize volunteers out here which will be handled by someone else tomorrow and I run up and down the stairs about 50 times."

Those trips fetch the hundreds of pounds of carrots and potatoes that need cooking and mashing.
One of those volunteers is Iraq War Purple Heart recipient Benjamin Hatton.

"I got hit by an IED and smashed my face as I was knocked out into my Humvee turret."

Hatton earned a second Purple Heart on a different mission when he was shot in the arm.
Some folks might think a person like that should now be served by others rather than serving food to strangers but he feels differently.

"I don't know, I like to help like anybody else. I have the means to do so, so I feel like I should."

Combat wounded Vietnam War Marine Corps veteran Brad Bennet feels that attitude is shared by most vets.
The need to perform service to others outlasts their military days.

"So many of us who served in combat know that some of our ranks didn't get to go home or get Christmas or share these things so I think we do it in honor of them for them."

In Duluth, Dave Anderson, KBJR 6 and Range 11.

The free meal runs from noon to 3 pm. Everyone is welcome. The VFW Post is located on West Michigan Street in Duluth.