Local group of military veterans comes together to gift $100 each to employees of Destin restaurant Crackings, where the Crispy Warriors hold their meetings every Thursday morning.
DESTIN — Military veterans have always held a special place in Tommy Green's heart.
That traces directly back to Green's father, James Green, a Korean War veteran who died in an accident after he returned from the war, when Tommy was still in grade school.
So, when a group of local veterans called the Crispy Warriors began coming to Tommy's restaurant, Crackings (978 Highway 98 East), eight years ago, he welcomed them with open arms.
Is it any surprise a group like that would figure out a way to repay the favor?
Crackings employees were gifted with $100 each from the Crispy Warriors last week as part of their annual holiday gift to restaurant employees.
"We just really appreciate (the Crispy Warriors) ... they are truly a special group," said Tommy, who changed his restaurant's name to Crackings from Another Broken Egg Cafe in March 2018. "They're so generous. It's been ongoing and it's just something you don't see every day."
Tommy said everyone who works there gets the annual gift.
"That's everybody in the restaurant," Tommy said. "Dishwashers, busboys, waitresses ... I think this year it was 28 people, so that's $2,800. They've been coming here every Thursday morning for a long time and we've had some great experiences with them.
"We've had Medal of Honor recipients, we've had the governor, we even had (former Arkansas Gov.) Mike Huckabee come here once to visit with them."
Huckabee, also a two-time presidential candidate and TV personality, visited the Crispy Warriors in 2017 and handed out awards to four World War II veterans.
According to Tommy, the Crispy Warriors include three veterans — ages 101, 100 and 99 years old — who fought in The Battle of the Bulge, which commemorated its 75th anniversary on Dec. 12. The group also includes veterans from the Korean War, Vietnam, Desert Storm and Operation Enduring Freedom.
Tommy, who has owned the restaurant for 21 years, said about 40 members usually show up on Thursday mornings from 7 to 9 a.m.
“That gift does so much for the employees and their kids, it really makes a huge difference at this time of year,” said Crackings General Manager Preston Green, Tommy’s son. “I know (the Crispy Warriors) are near and dear to my dad’s heart for that reason, and for the connection with my grandfather.
“That’s why we’ve always made sure to take such good care of them. I remember when they first started coming here it was maybe a half-dozen or so that would show up and we would wheel out a round table. Now, we have a room packed out with all of them in there and they have, I think, 65 total members and it’s been really cool to see their growth.
“They do this every year for the people who work (at Crackings) and they save up all year to do it. We’re incredibly grateful for them.”