Vet Lunch 1

St. Paul Lutheran Church member Jean Harms, of Mason City, prepares a plate of food during the church's free veterans' meal on Thursday. Free-will donations from other guests will be donated to local veterans' organizations.

MASON CITY | Multiple locations in and around Mason City are offering free meals to veterans during the next few days in honor of Veterans Day.

St. Paul Lutheran Fellowship Hall was offering free meals from 11 a.m. until food was gone Thursday afternoon, and was bustling with activity around noon.

Several restaurants are also offering free meals on Friday or Saturday. One of them is the Blue Heron Bar & Grille on Mason City's North End. They are offering a free steak dinner on Saturday, as long as veterans present their military ID.

Vickie Lau, one of the co-owners of the Blue Heron, said the decision to offer veterans a free meal was an easy one.

"We want to make sure the community knows that we appreciate them," Lau said by phone Thursday. "We feel they sometimes aren't recognized as much as they should be, and we want to take the opportunity to thank them."

The Cerro Gordo County Veterans Affairs Office commended volunteers and businesses like the Blue Heron for their support of those who served.

"We don't need to be recognized as veterans, but it's nice to indeed be recognized and know that people and businesses are looking out for us," the office said in a statement.

Some other restaurants that are offering free food include Applebee's and Ruby Tuesday. Veterans, upon presenting their military ID, can choose one of seven free entrees at Applebee's on Saturday, and free appetizers up to a $10 value at Ruby Tuesday. Rib Crib will also offer a free meal to veterans from their "Menu of Honor," which includes two meats and two sides.

HyVee locations are serving a free breakfast buffet Saturday. Iowa Secretary of State-affiliated "Honor a Veteran" postcards will be handed out throughout the day to urge customers to pay respect to those who served.

"This program is a way to recognize the sacrifice of our veterans," Secretary of State Paul Pate said in a statement. "They risked their lives to protect our freedoms and our right to vote. We cannot say 'thank you' enough to them for their service to our state and our country."

In Clear Lake, a free meal for veterans will be offered at VFW Post 4868 on Saturday. Lunch will be served from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. or until no food is left. People are encouraged to RSVP by calling Linda Dockwell at 641-425-7127.

The Anchor Inn in Clear Lake has also implemented an 11 percent discount on food purchases this week for veterans, which started Nov. 6 and continues through Veterans Day.

Contact Steve at 641-421-0527 or on Twitter @Steve_Bohnel.

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