Every year, businesses offer deals to those who served on Veterans Day, and one group of Billings friends plans their day out so that they can cash in on as many deals as possible.
It's a tradition that started when Wade Austin was still serving.
“We had the day off, and we just said, let’s meet up and have some food and grab a drink," Austin said. "All of a sudden, it morphed. We were having such a good time, we were like, why don’t we go to the next place that has an offer today?"
The rest is history. Years later, Austin and his friends— who all served in the Army National Guard— still spend the day getting together, visiting as many places as possible that offer them deals. Today began at Denny's for breakfast.
Typically, the group visits businesses that offer discounts, but this year their second stop was a bit unusual. Rose Park Elementary third graders honored Austin and his three friends, David Eckroth, Scott Steppe and Chris Enget, by reading them handwritten, heartfelt letters.
“It’s really great that the school is actually encouraging that and trying to teach the kids to appreciate the sacrifices a person can do in their life,” Eckroth said.
“I’m a father of four kids, and they’re all grown up, so it’s great to see this generation," Steppe said. "The kids actually had some compassion."
After the visit to the school, their next stop was at Olive Garden for some good food and the opportunity to catch up with old friends.
“The food is a lot of fun, but it’s just getting together is probably the best part of it,” Eckroth said.
Enget said the camaraderie and relationships are what he and most servicemen miss the most.
“One of the big things that veterans miss is having that camaraderie, that relationship building,” Enget said. "In the military, you build relationships that are unbreakable."
The entire group met through the military, and while they all have other friends, they agree that this bond is special.
“I was deployed with a number of these guys, so it’s great to get back and share the stories and see how they’re doing,” Steppe said.
They continued their day at Famous Dave's and had plans to continue on late into the evening. It's a day full of support for each other and from the community.
“When you know that your community supports you and that your community can surround you, it’s just a really good feeling to know you don’t have to walk it alone,” Enget said.
And according to them, they plan on doing it for a long time.
“I think we’ll be showing up when we’re in walkers and diapers,” Steppe said.