Army veteran Chris Archer will never forget the experience he had Saturday at the Taco Bell in Harrison.
As he was ordering his lunch — four tacos and a water — he asked the employee serving him if the restaurant offered a military discount.
The crew member, Liam Samples, said no. Samples, 17, proceeded to do something that blew Archer’s mind.
He tried to pay for Archer’s $6 meal.
“Before I even had a chance to think about what he was doing, he already had his wallet out and was trying to pay,” said Archer, 39, of Lower Burrell. “I was just like, ‘No, no, no … I got this. That’s amazing. Thank you for the thought for this.’ ”
Archer, who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, thought it would be be fitting to highlight Samples’s generous act by pointing it out to the Tribune-Review.
He said he has been given the senior discount at places where no military discount was offered, but no one has ever tried to pay for him out of their own pocket. Especially a 17-year-old.
“I didn’t want it to end at a handshake and a thank you,” Archer said. “I blew it up yesterday to everybody. I just boasted about. I spoke to his mom. It was a shock. I was like there’s no way. This kid’s amazing.”
Samples has worked at restaurant for almost two years. He said he offers to pay for, and has paid for, anyone who asks for a military discount.
This, however, is the first time someone has shown this much gratitude for his gesture.
“Usually, I get a thank you and the conversation’s over,” Samples said. “It’s nice to know that people really do appreciate the fact that I’m offering to pay for their meals whenever they ask for their military discount.”
Manager Shari Bair was working during the exchange. She said Samples called her up front because Archer wanted to talk to her. She said Archer asked if he was allowed to tip Samples. When she said it was OK, he gave Samples a generous tip.
Bair said Samples didn’t understand why what he did was such a big deal. He said he does it all the time, she said.
“I told him the world’s hard right now, and people recognize good gestures,” she said.
Samples said he has family members who have served in the military, and he has great respect for veterans. He does what he does to thank them for their service.
“It’s something that people should do,” he said.
Bair said Samples is a great kid and one of the restaurant’s best workers. But, she added, Archer is exceptional, too.
“There’s two amazing people in this story,” she said. “I think Chris should be recognized also because he served for us and then all these good deeds. How many times can you pay someone back from just a gesture?”
Kristina Anderson, Samples’s mom, said Bair gave Archer her phone number and he called her to talk about Samples. She said her son is a caring person with a heart of gold and she is proud of him. Samples lives in Freeport and will be a senior this year at Freeport Area High School.
“I think he’s an amazing kid,” she said.
Anderson said Samples gives back in other ways, too.
He dresses up as Spiderman and will go to Comic Con and pose with children. Sometime in the future he wants to visit UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and surprise the kids there.
“He likes to see kids smile,” Anderson said.