By D’Arcy Patrick Egan
Every branch of the military has its own uniform and style, and it was possible to often pick the one branch from another among the many of the veterans who attended Friday’s special Veterans Day Lunch on Friday. Simply check out the hats, jackets, camouflage wear, tattoos and even full uniforms they sported when walking through the door of the Jet Express Island Port Bar & Grill in Port Clinton.
For the third year, due to the generosity of Hal and Diane Hawk of Port Clinton, the owners of Crown Battery in Fremont, a record crowd of veterans and their families joined them for a tasty lunch that was free, great stories of military experiences, and to connect with old friends.
The meals were provided by Babette “Babs” Klacik and Bistro 163, the heralded pay-it-forward restaurant in Port Clinton, and her volunteers. Port Clinton students helped serve and clean up, and a musical trio put everyone in a happy mood.
“It feels so good to see so many veterans attend,” said Hal Hawk. “My wife, Diane, is really the quarterback of the whole event, and I owe her a lot for our success. We worked together hand-in-glove with Babs Klacik of Bistro 163, and her group is absolutely incredible. Babs loves to do this event for veterans, and she gives so much back to the community.”
Hawk said it’s quite personal, as well, for his family.
“My dad was in the Navy, and Diane’s father was in the Army. Our daughter is a lieutenant in the Army and was deployed in Poland for a year, and may be redeployed to the Middle East.”
Hawk said they all enjoy giving back to our veterans, serving them a great lunch and enjoying the camaraderie of the event.
“We like to give back to the guys and ladies, and listening to a lot of great stories,” he said.
John Culp of Port Clinton, a 41-year veteran who brought along his wife, Carolyn, of 57 years, wore his Navy Chiefs uniform. It still fit perfectly, and Culp was proud of that.
“I graduated from Port Clinton High School in 1959 — Carolyn graduated a year later — and joined the Navy. I served on nine submarines and seven surface ships. I was a journeyman tool and die maker for Ford after serving, and had a 100-ton license well in order to captain the ferry in Sandusky, and the Good Time.”
Michael Gilbert, an active Marine from 2007-11 who earned E5 Sergeant, agrees with the camaraderie and the stories, Now a maintenance technician in Sandusky, Gilbert credits his Marine training. He joined the Marines after graduating from Clyde High School, and has never regretted his choice.
“You learn all about discipline, being regimented and respectful,” he said. “There is a certain sense of pride in being a Marine, and it never goes away. It’s a mindset, an attitude and once a Marine, you’ll always be a Marine.