COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Cadet Roland Nix was excited to receive a free meal at his local Chili's Grill & Bar today. The meal was provided as part of a Veterans Day promotion that provides free entrees to all veterans and uniformed service members each November 11th.
Nix, a 19 year-old sophomore at the United States Air Force Academy, attended the restaurant as an outing with a dozen or so of his fellow classmates.
"It's very kind of Chili's to provide a free meal to honor our sacrifices," said Nix, who is currently receiving a taxpayer-funded education valued at over $400,000 when calculating the costs of tuition, room and board, free meals, salary, flying classes, and various other expenses.
"Cadet life can be pretty challenging. You haven't experienced stress until you've been up until 1 a.m. cramming for an aerospace engineering midterm while knowing you have to muster at 0630," said Nix, who will graduate from college debt-free in three years to become either a pilot or to take a cushy desk job in an air-conditioned government building.
"But when I take a bite of this Chicken Bacon Ranch Quesadilla provided to me free of charge, I know the sacrifices are all worth it," added Nix, who after graduation will be assigned to a squadron full of officers with private school liberal arts degrees who joined the Air Force as the only means to pay down their suffocating student debt.
Chili's staff were appreciative of the cadets turning out in large numbers for the Veterans Day special.
"These boys are so cute in their blue uniforms," said Patty McAlister, a server at Chili's. "I can't imagine the horrors of war they have witnessed in their service to our country. A free meal is the least we can do to thank them."
While many were grateful for the gesture of appreciation, some service members expressed frustration.
"I've been waiting for a table for over an hour because there must be a hundred cadets in here," said Staff Sgt. Will McDonald, an infantry soldier stationed at nearby Fort Carson who has had three combat deployments and received a silver star and two purple hearts.
"This is fucking bullshit."
Blondesoverbaghdad contributed to this report.