PORTLAND, Maine — It's not uncommon for a line of hungry people to form outside Becky's on Commercial Street at breakfast time.
On Monday, though, some who waited for hash and eggs were treated to something special: veterans were served a free meal to thank them for their service.
The wait for a table at Becky's on Monday was about a half-hour by 10 a.m.
About a dozen veterans were in early, but server Allison Music said she'd never have known if their companions hadn't pointed them out. And most, she said, declined the free breakfast offered as a way to say thank you.
Ben Sajecki spent Monday morning serving up lobster omelets and French toast with berries.
Sajecki served in the Navy on submarines from 2008 to 2013. He's worked at Becky's for about two years. Until this year, he said, he didn't realize Becky's offered veterans free meals on Veterans Day.
"So For Memorial Day and Veterans [Day], I was, if I saw a veteran out there, I would go out and buy them breakfast," he said. "It means a lot to me. I'm not big on taking advantage of it and I know a lot of other vets aren't. They kind of just want to move on and enjoy the service, but it's nice to get that appreciation back.
"It means a lot to me," Sajecki said. "I actually had a stint when I was homeless for a little bit and getting back on my feet, Zack taking me in was really great – he values hard work and I love it."
That's not the whole story, though, according to server Millie Norton.
"Last year on Memorial Day, Ben came up front first thing in the morning and gave me a $100 bill of his own money and said, 'Pick some people that are veterans and pay for their food for me today,'" Norton said. "I said, 'No, Ben, no, that's your own money,' and he said, 'I just want to do it. It makes me feel good.' And I think that's indicative of the way veterans are. They look out for each other and they do things for each other even when nobody asks them to."
What happened that day, Norton said, nearly brought her to tears.
"And you know, what happened was I would tell someone that and they would offer to pay for someone else too," she said. "It was like a thing, it just went on all day so at the end of the day I actually had money to give back to him."
Many veterans we spoke to on Monday declined to speak on camera. Sajecki said many just want a "Thank you" and to go on about their lives.
But Allison Music, who arrived at the diner at 3:30 a.m. Monday ready to serve breakfast to veterans, said honoring them makes her feel good.
"It makes them feel that they were appreciated for what they did for us, taking on what they've done," she said. "And being remembered – like now, and in the past – and they're grateful. That's all they really want ... It makes me feel good that I can do a little something to honor them. They do something for us every day – it keeps us safe and keeps me in a job."
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