A chicken nugget kids’ meal and the “best root beer in town” is Ernie’s go-to Chick-fil-A order, and now the World War II veteran will receive his lunch — which he has at the restaurant almost every day of the week — for free.
Ernie says the Avon, Ind., location “is the place to come” to get your chicken nugget fix and to meet some new friends. The restaurant’s employees are so fond of Ernie that they all take turns sitting down and enjoying lunch with him.
“He’s just like the all-American grandpa,” Chris Tincher, the owner of the Avon Chick-fil-A and a veteran himself, told local Indianapolis news station WXIN. “He just makes you feel good.”
The 92-year-old wasn’t looking for a handout. Ernie still drives himself and works around his house. Executive director Melissa Luebbert told the station, “We were just fascinated because he’s always like, ‘Oh, I just mowed my lawn.’ And he push-mows!”
In fact, it seems Avon’s Chick-fil-A offered the veteran free food for life simply because he’s a good friend. Team leader Amy Chambliss explained, “We just enjoy his company.”
“He’s just so warm,” Luebbert said. “Anytime you take his food to him, he’d ask how we were doing, and then it got to where we just formed a friendship.”
On Veterans Day, James Cooke, an employee, proposed that the restaurant offer Ernie free food for life and air his reaction on Facebook Live so that others could join in on honoring Ernie’s service.
“We wanted to say every time you come into our restaurant, you’re family now, so you no longer have to pay for any of your meals,” Tincher tells Ernie in the video.
Initially, Ernie refused the offer, but the team at Chick-fil-A insisted. “It was kind of a shock to me,” Ernie told WXIN. “I didn’t think I really deserved a free meal.” The gesture, he said, makes him feel good.
“He really does make people feel special,” Tincher said. “He’s almost more important to our staff than we are to him.”
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