Western Pa. businesses back special treats for veterans

| Friday, Nov. 9, 2012, 9:01 p.m.

Scores of businesses will honor current and former military personnel this Veterans Day weekend with hot meals, museum freebies, even body massages.

Locally owned restaurants and many large-chain eateries all across Western Pennsylvania are opening their dining rooms to those who have served in uniform, most with no charge or special menus.

Patrick Joyce expected maybe two dozen people to show last year when, for the first time, he offered free-meal discounts at 17th Street Café, the cozy South Side restaurant he's owned since 2002. About 100 turned out, some of whom served in Vietnam and Korea.

He's clearing the way for a similar crowd this weekend.

“It's a way of saying ‘thank you for what you do for America,' ” says Joyce, whose father served in the Army. “The feeling of gratitude you saw. They were just so grateful people were recognizing them.”

Then, there are the activities.

Fort Pitt Museum is offering free admission today and Sunday to all active and retired servicemen and women, while hosting a supply-donation drive and a musket-firing demonstration by 18th-century Colonial war re-enactors.

Museum visitors will be able to create “thank-you cards” that will be shipped to Pittsburgh-area Veterans Administration hospitals.

Admission to Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall in Oakland usually is free only to veterans, but all visitors will get in for no charge Saturday.

Waiving the cost allows the public a chance “to celebrate Veteran's Day by learning more about our country's military experiences and sacrifices” through the museum's exhibits, says John F. McCabe, the museum's president and CEO.

Some places are using their hands to thank vets.

Two Pittsburgh-area car washes — Ritenour Car Wash in Butler, and Spray N Vac Car Wash in New Castle — are giving away free washes during the weekend.

Just saying you served won't be enough. Veterans will need to provide proof of service, such as a military ID Card, a driver's license with a veterans designation or a veterans organization card. Some places will accept discharge paperwork.

Western Pennsylvania is home to one of the largest concentrations of veterans in the country.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates as many as 500,000 veterans and their dependents live in 27 counties of Western Pennsylvania and four counties in the panhandle of northern West Virginia.

Chris Ramirez is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at cramirez@tribweb.com or 412-380-5682.

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