By Kristine Schellhaas, Founder USMCLife.com
It was an unexpected welcome. These guys don’t ask for anything and they sure don’t expect a thank you. Both prior enlisted, both Majors in the Infantry with a combined fourteen deployments, and another possible half dozen on the horizon. These guys are hard chargers and love being United States Marines, and for them, that is reward enough.
These guys are also married, each with two children. They know the importance of saying “yes” to their wives when they’re so used to hearing no, maybe and I’m not sure from of the constraints of their military lifestyle. They recognize that life is just as difficult for the families who remain behind and maintain the family and household, but trudge forward with no award or recognition for the years of service and sacrifices made.
I’d like to think this is why Better Way to Stay’s B&B for Vets program was started. We are just a few of the many families towing the line for America, without any expectation of receiving anything back.
This year marks their fourth year, where over 400 Inns voluntarily opened their doors on Veterans Day, November 11th, for vets across the US.
I’ve been writing about the B&B for Vets program for several years on my website, USMC Life, never considering whether we could utilize the program due to the demands of the Corps. I received a call from our friends, asking if we would accompany them to the Inn at Playa del Rey to celebrate their anniversary with them. We talked it over, the timing worked out, and we decided to take advantage of the program.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but those twenty-four hours away from our active duty Marine Corps life would provide such a welcome reprieve. It all began with the hour and a half drive towards Los Angeles from Camp Pendleton. We were able to carry on a conversation without being interrupted by one of our children, which hasn’t happened in a long time. In fact, I can’t think of the last time we were alone – just the two of us – for more than a few hours.
It provided the perfect opportunity to tune into each other’s thoughts and needs. We discussed retirement dates, life after the Corps, and how each other were feeling about what was going on in the world. Before we knew it, we arrived at the Inn.
As we opened the door, we were immediately greeted by the smell of homemade breads and confectionaries. We had arrived at a place where home cooked meals and heartfelt smiles were the norm. We checked in and were escorted around the Inn. They invited us to partake in the nightly complimentary wine and cheese tasting, showed us where to receive fresh baked goodies at any hour of the night, and described the next day’s breakfast.
A clean and quaint room awaited us with a comfortable bed and feather duvet, along with two homemade chocolate chip cookies and a hand written note, Welcome… We are so happy to have you! Enjoy your night, signed by the staff at the Inn. What a way to set the tone. We didn’t feel like we were imposing, we truly felt welcome at the Inn at Playa del Rey. To our delight, our friends received an upgraded room with fireplace and a bottle of champagne as an anniversary present.
We dined that evening at McCormick and Schmicks, where they too were honoring veterans with a selection of complementary entrees off a special dining menu. It included items varying from Parmesan Crusted Chicken, Beef Medallions & Scampi Style Shrimp, Cedar Planked or Grilled Salmon and more. It seemed like most veterans within a forty mile radius of the restaurant set out to dine for the evening; we were glad we had reservations. On the way out, we discovered that the restaurant had provided meals to more than 1,400 Veterans; more than two-thirds of the restaurant’s patrons that night. That’s pretty extraordinary.
On the way home, we discussed the B&B for Vets program and some of the couples we had met. One couple in particular lived a few miles away from the Inn and mentioned that this was their seventh year in a row dining at McCormick & Schmicks. This made me take pause and consider why some take advantage in participating in programs several times over, where others do not.
We discussed how these tremendous programs could be protected, so more than a select few can experience the opportunity to reconnect, have a home cooked meal, or dine out with a loved one for an evening. Of course, there is no perfect system, but perhaps a simple rule of ineligibility for the following year at the same location, to prevent abuse and open the doors for others… or possibly even setting aside a specific amount of rooms for active duty and another for retirees and veterans.
I don’t know that one policy can define an answer for everyone, but I believe if the organizations are having the conversation, then good things will happen. We also talked about why so many organizations are giving back on Veteran’s Day. Was it a trendy move or a good PR stunt? Or do companies really care about our veterans and truly want to say thank you? Without a doubt, the Inn at Playa Del Rey showed us how much they cared and weren’t out for the PR. They donated 13 of their 22 rooms and sent out special discounted offers to the 200 people who called and couldn’t get reservations.
I truly believe that the majority of Americans love our country and are grateful for the sacrifices made by the armed forces and their families. This Marine Corps family has endured multiple deployments and we found the B&B for Vets Program and dining out at McCormick & Schmicks truly amazing… so, on behalf of all participants in the programs, we would like to thank all of those who have served our nation, in your own way, be it military service, or by participating in a veterans program, or passing on a military discount, we thank you.
Editor’s note: Thanks to Kristine for her first submission to the Daily Caller. Kristine is the founder of USMC Life – a website for relocating Marine families. Visit her site at http://usmclife.com/