April 25 isn’t Veterans Day. It’s not Memorial Day. It’s not an anniversary of the end of a war, attack or a military event. So that’s exactly why Chad Pritchard is hosting a dinner for veterans that night.
“Honestly, I just wanted to do something out of the ordinary,” he said. “It’s not Memorial Day, not Veterans Day. I wanted to say ‘hey, thanks for your service’ just because.”
Pritchard, who owns Oregano Italian Kitchen at 223 W. Center St. in Provo, thinks veterans in Utah County don’t get enough recognition. His father is a Vietnam veteran, and Pritchard was born in an Army hospital on an Army post. He grew up near Fort Hood in Texas, where school is out on Veterans Day and there’s a big parade.
He saw soldiers every day growing up. But in Utah County, where soldiers aren’t a part of everyday life, veterans don’t get enough recognition.
“I just feel like putting up a memorial wall at the county building and on Nov. 11 saying ‘hi we love you’ and going out on Memorial Day” isn’t enough, he said. … “Why don’t we have a Memorial Day parade? Why don’t we have a Veterans Day parade?”
Veterans were willing to stand up and defend the country, Pritchard said. “We owe it to them to do more.”
He’s offered free meals for veterans on Veterans Day, but last year only one person took him up on the offer. So he got the idea for a dinner event for veterans. He’s planning to set up tables outside — and hoping for a warm night — with a pasta buffet, salad and bread.
“If they’re willing to give their lives, I can give spaghetti,” Pritchard said.
It will be on a Tuesday night, which is usually a slower night in downtown Provo, to interfere as little as possible with neighboring businesses and restaurants.
Though he’s willing to fund the dinner himself, he will take donations of short pasta, canned tomatoes, and other unprepared food.
“I hope to serve 300 veterans that night,” Pritchard said. “Honestly I hope I have to close my restaurant to feed the people.”
He’s hoping to have literature from veterans groups at the event, for veterans who may not know about the resources available to them. And a veteran who’s a musician will perform.
Pritchard hopes his way of serving will catch on, and that people will remember veterans more than twice a year. “If you see a veteran, tell them thanks. It takes two seconds to say thank you for your service and shake their hand.”
If you’re interested in donating to the veterans’ dinner, contact Chad Pritchard here.