Montana

Veterans find deals around Billings, spend quality time together

Each year, corporations offer deals to those who have served on Veterans Day, and a group of Billings friends plan their trip so that they can take advantage of as many deals as possible.

It’s a tradition that began when Wade Austin was still serving.

“We had the day off and we just said, let’s meet up and have something to eat and have a drink,” Austin said. “Suddenly it changed. We had such a good time we thought why not go to the next place that has an offer today?”

The rest is history. Years later, Austin and his friends — who all served in the Army National Guard — still spend the day getting together and visiting as many places as possible that have offers for them. Today started at Denny’s for breakfast.

The group usually visits businesses that offer discounts, but this year their second stop was a bit unusual. The third graders at Rose Park Elementary School honored Austin and his three friends David Eckroth, Scott Steppe and Chris Enget by reading them handwritten, heartfelt letters.

“It’s really great that the school is actually encouraging that and trying to teach the kids to appreciate the sacrifices that a person can make in their life,” Eckroth said.

“I’m a father of four kids, and they’re all grown, so it’s great to see this generation,” Steppe said. “The kids actually had some sympathy.”

After school their next stop was at the Olive Garden for good food and a chance to meet old friends.

“The food is a lot of fun, but being together is probably the best part,” Eckroth said.

Enget said camaraderie and relationships are what he and most soldiers miss the most.

“One of the big things that veterans miss is that camaraderie, that relationship building,” Enget said. “In the military, you build relationships that are unbreakable.”

The entire group met through the military, and while they all have other friends, they all agree that this connection is special.

“I’ve been out with some of these guys, so it’s great to come back and share the stories and see how they’re doing,” Steppe said.

They continued their day at Famous Dave’s and planned to keep going well into the evening. It’s a day of support for each other and from the community.

“When you know that your community supports you and that your community can surround you, it’s just a really good feeling to know that you don’t have to go it alone,” Enget said.

And according to them, they plan to do this for a long time.

“I think we’ll show up when we’re in first walkers and in diapers,” Steppe said.

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