Veterans Day freebies await, from doughnuts to gym memberships

Staff Sgt. Danielle Bacon

Updated Nov. 10

These days, with rising costs of everything, we’re all trying to find ways to save some dollars anywhere we can. Each year, a number of establishments offer discounts on or around Veterans Day, and many offer discounts year-round.

Even a free cup of coffee means a lot more than it did in 2021 with price increases.

Military families and veterans know more than anyone that Veterans Day isn’t just about saving money. But these offers are just one way businesses and organizations show they’re grateful for military service. Some of these offers may extend a few days beyond Veterans Day; some establishments offer year-round discounts, too.

If you map out your discount plan, you may be able to get free meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner at various locations, to fortify you while you do some shopping for necessities using discounts in stores and online!

Because of events over the past several years, starting with COVID-19 and continuing with labor shortages, supply chain issues and other problems, some establishments have had to close or limit operations. Many have struggled with rising prices, too.

Situations change day to day, so above all, if you’re going to a local restaurant for a discount, for example, call ahead to find out if they’re actually open and whether they are participating in the discount program. Find out what you need to bring in terms of proof of military service. While most don’t specifically state if a discount applies to Guard and Reserve, it probably does. Just check. And while most apply to those currently serving as well as veterans, make sure you double check. For example, the Bombshells Restaurant free meal applies only to veterans, not to active duty. Active duty members and accompanying family members get a 20% discount.

The discounts come in various sizes and may have various exclusions.

These are a few for starters, and we’ll add some more before Veterans Day, so check back for deals offered by restaurants, hotels, retail establishments and other businesses. Email Senior Reporter Karen Jowers at kjowers@militarytimes.com with additions and suggestions.

If you don’t see a favorite establishment on the list, ask them if they offer a military discount. They may offer it, but may not have a sign in the store. Just remember that no civilian commercial establishment is required to offer a discount or deal.

Be aware that the free meal may be offered to you, but not to your other family members. That’s entirely up to the business owner, but it helps to know that ahead of time so you’ll be prepared to pay before you enter an establishment with your family members.

Check out our “Before you go” section at the bottom of this article to save yourself some headaches.

Food and drink

Applebee’s: Offering a free meal from a special menu of seven entrees, on Nov. 11, to active duty and other veterans. Applebee’s has served nearly 11 million free meals to veterans since 2008.

Bob Evans: Offering a free meal from a special menu of 10 breakfast items, on Nov. 11, to active duty and other veterans. Must provide proof of service.

Bombshells Restaurant & Bar: Offering free entrees for veterans at all 12 company-owned and franchised locations in Texas on Nov. 11. Other items will be discounted at 20%, and accompanying families will receive a 20% discount on entrees and other items. Note: This free meal doesn’t apply to active duty; but active duty will get a 20% discount. All other days of the year, active duty and other veterans can receive a 20% discount.. Check beforehand what identification can be used for the discount.

California Pizza Kitchen: Offering a free nonalcoholic beverage and choice of one entree from a special menu, to active duty and other veterans, on Nov. 11.

Golden Corral: Offering a free meal at all locations from 5 p.m. to close on Monday, Nov. 14, to all active duty and other veterans for Military Appreciation Night. The restaurants have served more than 6 million free meals to veterans over the past 21 years. For more information, visit www.goldencorral.com/military-appreciation.

IHOP: Offering free red, white and blueberry pancakes from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Nov. 11 to active duty and other veterans. Proof of service required.

Krispy Kreme: Offering a free doughnut and a small brewed coffee to active duty and other veterans, on Nov. 11.

Little Caesars: Offering free lunch combo at participating locations while supplies last, between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., Nov. 11, to active duty and other veterans. Features four-slice deep dish pizza with pepperoni, and a 20-ounce Pepsi product. Military ID or DD214 required.

Red Lobster: Offering a free shrimp, fries and coleslaw meal to active duty and other veterans, between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. local time. Show a military ID or proof of service.

Shoney’s: Offering free “all you care to eat” breakfast bar, to active duty and other veterans, from opening until 11 a.m. at participating locations. Proof of service required.

Starbucks: Offering a free 12-oz. hot brewed coffee or iced coffee at participating stores to active duty, veterans and military spouses.

TGI Fridays: Offering a free meal from a selection of four menu items to active duty and other veterans who dine in at a participating TGI Fridays restaurant. Valid from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. local time on Nov. 11, with valid military ID. Tax and gratuity not included. Not available for online, takeout or delivery orders.

Tuscan Brands Restaurants: Offering a free family style meal to veterans and their guest from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Nov. 11, at their locations in Boston, Burlington and Newburyport, Massachusetts; and Salem and Portsmouth, New Hampshire. RSVP by calling the restaurant or online at tuscanbrands.com/veteransday. The restaurants include Tuscan Kitchen, Tuscan Sea Grill & Bar and Toscana Italian Chop House & Wine Bar.

White Castle: Offering a free combo meal or breakfast combo meal to active duty and other veterans on Nov. 11 at participating restaurants. Military identification requested.

Recreation & travel

AmericanForcesTravel.com: This Defense Department site offers discounts year-round on airfare, hotels, car rentals, cruises and event tickets for active duty, retirees, Guard and reserve, Coast Guard, veterans with service-connected disabilities, and other eligible Morale, Welfare and Recreation patrons.

Buena Park, California: The city has pulled together a number of discounts and deals from local businesses for currently serving and other veterans, for a trip that can be planned at any time through the end of the year, ranging from hotel deals, restaurant deals, and discounts at local attractions. For a full list of military deals, visit visitbuenapark.com/military.

Mount Vernon: Offering free admission to active duty and other veterans on Nov. 11.

National Parks: All national parks that charge an entrance fee will offer free admission to everyone on Veterans Day.

Red Roof: Offering 15% discount on bookings and stays through Dec. 30 to active duty and other veterans, at participating Red Roof locations. Use code VP 623095 when booking. Be prepared to show identification.

VetTix.org: Offers tickets year-round to all military and veterans, including immediate family of troops killed in action. Vet Tix secures tickets to sporting events, concerts, performing arts, educational and family activities across the nation. Tickets are free, with a small delivery fee.

Westgate Resorts: Beginning at 9 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, Nov. 11, the first 1,000 military, veteran and Gold star families to sign up will receive a free three-day, two-night Orlando, Florida, vacation for up to four guests in a Studio Villa at the Westgate Vacation Villas & Town Center Resort. The Westgate Resorts Military Weekend will be held the weekend of Dec. 9–Dec. 11. To sign up, you must download the Westgate Resorts mobile app before Nov. 11, and sign up for a free World of Westgate Loyalty account. Then on Nov. 11 at 9 .m., open the app and register for the Westgate Resorts Military Weekend and complete the military appreciation form. Only World of Westgate members will be able to access the complimentary stay form. A current military ID or valid DD214 form is required to confirm the final reservation.

World of Coca-Cola: Offering up to four general admission tickets at half-price to active duty and other veterans, through Nov. 13. (The service member/veterans can visit the attraction free of charge year-round.) The discounted tickets must be purchased online in advance; use the promo code VETS2022 at checkout. You’ll be asked to show your military identification when you arrive at the attraction.

Retail

Academy Sports + Outdoors: Offering 10% discount to currently serving military and other veterans through Nov. 13. The discount is applied to the entire purchase, both in store and online. To use the discount online, verify your status with the id.me buttons on the shopping cart page, then copy and paste the promo code into the promo code section on the shopping cart page for single-use redemption. To use the discount in the store, show your military ID at checkout. Call ahead to find out what other identification a veteran would need. The stores have an assortment of gear for hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation, footwear, team sports, fitness and more.

Army & Air Force Exchange Service, or AAFES: Savings in brick-and-mortar stores as well at ShopMyExchange.com on Nov. 11, to include $180 off Samsung Class TU70004K 75-inch TV; $400 off Acer Nitro 50 desktop computer; 10% extra discount on fine jewelry and watches; 30% extra discount on Ray-Ban sunglasses; and free brewed coffee at Express stores and participating restaurants. There’s also 10 cents off every gallon of gas at Exchange fuel locations, when using the Military Star card. There are extra discounts on additional items available from Nov. 11–17, such as 20% discount on all Baht gold and 24K pure gold fine jewelry, 30% discount on select power tools, and $50 off on all Apple Watch products. Active duty service members and retirees and their families, veterans with service-connected disabilities and DoD civilians can shop at AAFES stores on base, as well as online. Honorably discharged veterans can shop online at ShopMyExchange.com as well as the other online exchanges, mynavyexchange.com and shopcgx.com.

Home Depot: Offering a 10% discount year-round to active duty and other veterans and their spouses. Available online, in the mobile app and in-store. Those eligible receive a maximum $400 maximum discount per year, which resets each calendar year. To enroll, visit homedepot.com/auth/view/signin or open the Home Depot mobile app. Login to your existing personal account or create a new account. Go to the Military Discount page, select “verify military status” and follow the on-screen instructions to complete military verification. Once you’ve successfully completed each step, your personal account on HomeDepot.com will reflect your verified military status. Home Depot uses Sheer ID to verify status.

Lowe’s: Offering a 10% discount year-round to active duty members, veterans and their spouses on eligible items. Visit Lowes.com/military to enroll. Select Verify with ID.me and follow the on-screen instructions to complete military verification. After you’ve been verified, you’ll be asked to create a personal account on Lowes.com or log in to your existing personal account on Lowes.com and follow the on-screen instructions

Parsons Xtreme Golf: Offers a 50% discount off select clubs and apparel, to military members and other veterans, year-round. Verified online through ID.me.

Staples: Offering a 25% discount on all in-store purchases through Nov. 12 to active duty and other veterans and their families. Valid military identification required. Mention the offer at checkout.

Target: Offering active duty and other veterans, as well as their spouses and children, a 10% discount across the board, which can be used twice through Nov. 12. To redeem the offer, verify eligibility by registering at www.target.com/circle/military .

Tractor Supply Co.: Offering a 15% discount in stores to active duty and other veterans and their dependents on Nov. 11 with valid military ID or proof of service.

Walgreens: Offering 20% discount on regularly priced, eligible items in store from Nov. 11–Nov. 14, to active duty and other veterans and their family members. Proof of service required. There are exclusions, such as prescriptions, alcohol, dairy, tobacco, gift cards and a number of other items.

Services

Goodyear Auto Service and Just Tires: Offering “Free Car Care Check for Vets,” for currently serving and other veterans from Nov. 10–14. Includes free checks of tires, brakes and battery, plus 10% off tires and services. Those who can’t get there car in by Nov. 14 can make an appointment to take advantage of the deal through Nov. 17. For more information and to book an appointment, visit goodyearautoservice.com/en-US/services/military-offer or justtires.com/en-US/services/military-offer.

Great Clips: On Nov. 11, currently serving military and other veterans can get a free haircut or a free haircut card to use later, at any U.S. Great Clips salon. Also, non-military customers who get a haircut on Veterans Day at Great Clips can get a free haircut card to give to a service member or veteran. The cards can be redeemed from Nov. 12–Dec. 9 at any Great Clips salon in the U.S. Over the past 10 years, Great Clips salons have given nearly 2 million free haircuts to veterans.

Quick Quack: Offering free car wash Nov. 11 to active duty and other veterans. There are 155 locations across Arizona, California, Colorado, Texas and Utah.

UFC Gym and UFC Fit: Offering free memberships with access to a variety of amenities at premier fitness facilities at participating locations across the country through the end of 2022, to active duty and retired military. To redeem the offer, participants must register by Nov. 30. A valid military ID is required to redeem the offer.

Venture X: Offering free membership at participating locations of Venture X through November to active and retired military. This provides access to all shared office amenities and workspaces, networking, free high-speed internet, and complimentary coffee and refreshments. Offered to new members only. Free membership lasts through the end of November. For more information or to apply, visitinfo.venturex.com/veteransday.

Before you go

• Check the fine print and call the participating organization to be sure the offer is available at the time you plan on arriving. That’s especially important in these times of supply chain issues and labor shortages.

• Let the host, cashier, attendant, reservation agent or other relevant employee know up front that you want the discount or deal.

• “Free” isn’t always completely free. A free meal doesn’t always come with a drink, for instance. Be prepared to pay for extras such as taxes (and tip). Most restaurants require patrons to dine in for the deal.

• Call ahead to local establishments to be sure they are aware of, and are participating in, national chain programs. Confirm availability and what type of ID is required.

• Not all offers apply to veterans of all stripes. Be sure you are eligible and you have the appropriate ID/paperwork.

• Not all discounts apply to the entire party. Be sure you’re clear whether family members or guests are covered in the discount.

• It doesn’t hurt to ask a company whether they offer a military discount before you book a reservation or order from your waitress. But don’t act like you expect it.