November 11 is the official annual date America observes Veterans Day. Originally called Armistice Day when it was first established in 1919, the day marked the anniversary of the end of World War I. Armistice Day didn’t become a national holiday until 1938, however, and wasn’t renamed as Veterans Day until 1954 by President Eisenhower. Today, Veterans Day honors all American soldiers, whether they’ve served during war or times of peace.
Though Veterans Day is a recognition of the brave men and women who have served our country, it’s also important to honor them throughout the year. With that in mind, Best of NJ has put together a special feature commemorating the wonderful, thoughtful acts of New Jersey businesses and residents who went above and beyond to honor our veterans this year. We hope their stories will further inspire New Jerseyans to support and celebrate our troops this Veterans Day.
From fundraising activities to health fairs, ShopRite Supermarkets, Inc. runs the gamut when it comes to helping veterans. This past July, the grocery store chain held its ninth annual Veterans Fundraising Campaign and clothing drive, which supported local veterans’ organizations. So far in 2017, ShopRite has raised $925,000 and a total of $3.9 million since the campaign to benefit veterans began in 2009. ShopRite also supports the Hudson Valley Honor Flight, which transports WWII, Vietnam and Korean War veterans each year on a one-day trip to Washington, DC.
For the second year in a row, ShopRite is also partnering with Hallmark to pay special tribute to military members and veterans. Now through Nov. 12, ShopRite customers who spend $2.99 on any Hallmark item will receive a free Veterans Day card to send to a special veteran they support.
In addition to the Hallmark partnership, many stores are hosting or sponsoring events to mark Veterans Day. The ShopRite of Lincoln Park, for example, hosted its second annual Veteran’s Lunch at the Lincoln Park American legion on Nov. 8. Military members — active and retired — were given handwritten notes of thanks and Hallmark cards. The ShopRite of Succasunna and The ShopRite of Rockaway will also co-sponsor a dental health fair for veterans, Smile for Our Heroes, at the Zufall Health Center in Dover on Nov. 11 and 12.
Stumpy’s Hatchet House
Stumpy’s Hatchet House offers what it refers to as a “an alternative form of recreation” and invites guests to “get back to the basics with hatchet throwing.” And why not, when you’re supporting a company that supports our service men and women?
Stumpy’s hosted a Hatchet Hurl for Veterans in July, which raised more than $10,000 for Backpacks for Life, a New Jersey-based nonprofit that supports homeless veterans. And now, Stumpy’s wants to make it easier for vets to get in on the fun by offering half off throughout the entire month of November with a valid military ID.
“We feel it’s important to honor veterans who have served our country for our freedom,” says Kelly Josberger, co-owner of Stumpy’s. “America is the land of opportunity and we would like to thank our vets by offering them a half price throw down opportunity.”
P.J.W. Restaurant Group
Veterans matter a great deal to the P.J.W. Restaurant Group — which includes P.J. Whelihan’s restaurants throughout the state, The ChopHouse in Gibbsboro, The Pour House in Westmont and Treno Pizza Bar in Westmont — according to Director of Operations for New Jersey Mike Perro.
“P.J.W. Restaurant Group has a proud history of charitable giving over our 34-year history, with special attention always paid to organizations that honor our military here in Jersey and across the country,” Perro explains.
In honor of Veterans Day, P.J. Whelihan’s locations will be giving away free 10-piece orders of wings with a valid military ID. You can also get free house wings at The Pour House or a decadent dessert at The ChopHouse and Treno.
“We’re grateful to our current and former military service members and want to show our appreciation on this day of respect,” Perro says.
New Jersey Devils
As the New Jersey Devils start the hockey season with a winning record, the team hasn’t forgotten to look out for our service men and women. Star right winger Kyle Palmieri continues to honor vets through his Squad21 program, which offers 21 military personnel and their guest tickets to a game with seats in his reserved sections, t-shirts and an exclusive post-game meet and greet.
This year, the team’s annual Military Appreciation Night will be held on Nov. 11 when they take on the Florida Panthers.
The players will wear special warmup jerseys that will be made available for auction with proceeds benefiting charity. In addition, veterans can purchase discounted tickets for Devils games through GovX, a website offering exclusive discounts for veterans, current members of the military, first responders and law enforcement members.
It’s a joint celebration for iPlay America, which marks its 6th birthday on Veterans Day. The four-acre indoor entertainment complex is home to a myriad of rides and attractions — including an arcade, bumper cars, laser tag, a virtual reality arena and carnival games — making it the perfect spot for veterans to celebrate the day with their families. There’s also the Game Time Bar & Grill for those vets looking to have a few drinks and enjoy live music. Free cupcakes will be given out with any food purchase at Game Time, and veterans ride free all day.
The Bonk Family
When Donna Bonk’s now 12-year-old son Eddie turned 9, instead of presents, he asked for food to donate to a Keyport Ministerium Food Pantry and then donated his birthday money to Soul Kitchen, a nonprofit community restaurant run by the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation. When Eddie turned in his money, Jon Bon Jovi sat down and talked with him for 15 minutes.
“I was just trying not to lose it because I’m such a huge fan,” Donna says. “But his taking that 15 minutes to speak with my son meant the world to him.”
Since then, Eddie and his sister, Allison, 9, annually request donation supplies in lieu of birthday celebrations, with service men and women being their main focus. Last year, the family collected care package items and worked with Operation Jersey Cares to distribute more than 20 care packages to active duty members of the military. This year, they turned their focus to homeless veterans and collected supplies for Support Homeless Veterans, a nonprofit out of Pennsylvania that works with homeless vets in South Jersey.
Through the power of Facebook, Donna says, other kids see what Eddie and Allie are doing and some decide to follow suit, donating birthdays to charitable causes.
“This recognition reinforces for the children why they do it; it proves their voices are heard and they can make a difference.”
For Donna and her children, it’s the least they can do, and they encourage anyone so inclined to get involved.
“I’m allowed to do what I do and my family can do what we do because [these service men and women] afford us this opportunity through their and their families’ sacrifice. I wish we could more,” she says. “Everybody thinks it’s a good idea but they have to take the time to do it. We’re proof, though, that it can start with a single person; it can start with a kid. And there’s an amazing snowball effect that can happen when you do something nice for somebody else so find what resonates with you and just do it. The smallest gesture can make such a difference in someone’s life.”