Downtown Minneapolis eatery Hell’s Kitchen, like many other restaurants, serves veterans for free every November 11.
Never has anyone complained about it until this year when a customer – whom the restaurant's Cynthia Gerdes identifies only as “CB” – sent her a one-sentence email that read like an unnecessarily litigious reprimand:
“Please be advised, extending a free meal to only a certain segment of society is inherently discriminatory in nature.”
Gerdes read the complaint 10 different ways, trying to figure out if it was facetious, politically influenced, or an unfortunate case of political correctness being used to oppose a good cause.
She didn’t reply. But Gerdes – who also has a penchant for shaming homophobic Yelpers – was bothered enough to mention it on Facebook to reiterate that Hell’s Kitchen’s desire to feed veterans had nothing to do with what anyone thought of America’s wars.
Hundreds of people responded – mostly with thanks and offers to donate money, which Hell’s Kitchen declined. Some who’d served in the Reserves wrote to say they wanted to grab brunch, but would rather give up their seats to vets who’d seen combat.
Still, a few speculated that CB had to be one of those perpetually offended “social justice warriors.”
“When I read through the Facebook comments, a few people seemed to think it was politically motivated. I don’t even want to get into politics, but there’s that huge thing that the right wing is supportive of the military and the liberals aren’t,” Gerdes says.
She just doesn’t think that’s true anymore, but the sentiment is inherited from a time when those on the left shamed military members mercilessly.
One email Gerdes received came from the widow of a Vietnam era vet who’d felt discarded after the war.
“Rick had told me that when he returned from both overseas tours he had been spit on as he went through airports, but it wasn't until the 42nd Veterans Day that I knew him, that I heard about the worst of the harassment he received upon his return from the service,” the widow wrote.
“When Rick got out of the service he went back to work for his dad while he was also going to school. The sad thing was the harassment was from his dad's employees, men who had known him since he was a little boy. The pain in his eyes and in his voice as he told me about it is something that still makes me cry if I think about it.”
It’s gotten a lot better for veterans, and that’s been a welcome change, the widow wrote.
There are no restrictions on Hell’s Kitchen’s offer. Veterans can choose the most expensive entrée on the menu. Those who can’t find their IDs will have the benefit of the doubt.