Restaurants and businesses across the country are choosing to reserve a table and 13 beers to honor the service members who died during Thursday’s bombing near Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport.
Ironwood Cafe in Ohio said the news hit close to home – Maxton “Max” Soviak is a native of Milan, Ohio, and was among the fallen.
“My husband, grandfather and many in my family served. So, when I read that one of Ohio’s own died, I knew I wanted to make a small gesture to honor Max and the 12 other soldiers,” Shannon Vasquez, general manager of the cafe, told USA TODAY.
Vasquez said one of her regular customers saw the 13 beers, gave her a big hug and said, “This reminds me of my grandpa who died in the line of duty.”
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Also in Ohio, Niko Moulagianis said he felt compelled to do something, too. He called his bar’s general manager and told her about reserving an entire table for 13 beers to honor the service members.
“She told me, ‘You do realize it’s a Friday night, right?’ I said, ‘Yeah, but you do realize these people are not coming back to the families?'” Moulagianis, owner of Niko’s Bar & Gyros, told USA TODAY.
He didn’t stop there. Until Sept. 11, Moulagianis will donate a dollar for every beer they sell. The proceeds will go to military charities, or specifically to the families of the 13 who died.
On top of beer sales, he said they’ve received cash donations from local customers. Moulagianis hopes veterans, people who have been affected and military families see the 13 beers and feel “supported and seen.”
“A father came up to me with tears in his eyes and said, ‘My son is a Marine. So I thank you.’ I told him, ‘There’s no reason to thank me. I thank you and your son,’ ” Moulagianis said.
Michael Maiorana, co-owner of First Line Brewery in New York, has also been displaying 13 beers inside the brewery. Staff refresh the pints throughout the night so the beers remain cold. Maiorana said a portion of the proceeds from this weekend will be donated to military-run charities for fallen service members. Customers have donated about $2,000 in cash since Friday, he said.
Other local businesses and bars in the area have followed the brewery’s lead. One flower shop placed 13 roses outside the store, Maiorana said.
“It’s great to see our community showing up to support the soldiers and their affected families. We want them to know that at least we are here for them in any small or big way they need,” Maiorana told USA TODAY.
A barbershop in Delaware decided to reserve a single chair in the shop and set out 13 beers as well. The owner of Amstel Barbershop, Robert Allen, placed a folded U.S. flag on top of the chair in hopes customers take a few minutes to honor the lost soldiers. Allen said almost everyone in the city of Middletown knows a veteran or someone currently serving and are heartbroken by the Kabul attack.
On a busy Saturday, Allen said he wanted people to stop and remember the “true sacrifices and heroes.”
“Somebody lost a piece of their family they’ll never get back. Putting out 13 beers to honor the lives of those soldiers is the least any American can do right now,” Allen said.
Hannah Nielson, a kitchen manager at AJOBrady’s restaurant in Wisconsin, heard from a former employee who left to become a Marine that some men in her unit died in the Kabul attack. Nielson told restaurant owner Bruce Russell they had to do something.
Nielson saw other businesses and bars setting out 13 beers for the fallen service members, so AJOBrady’s staff did the same. Except its customers went one step further. Since Friday, dozens have offered to pay for the beer or meal of any veteran or military family members who come into the restaurant.
“We wanted to make sure everyone in our restaurant felt this loss and honor the soldiers. We’re active in the community and wanted to shed a light on what’s happened,” Nielson told USA TODAY.
Russell said the community reaction has been overwhelming; customers have seen the 13 beers and asked where and how they can help other military families. Some have offered donations, while others have thanked and hugged local veterans.
“These families, the sacrifices and those soldiers who died deserve to be seen. So in our small way, we put our 13 beers to honor them, which isn’t half of what they deserve. But it’s something,” Russell said.
Follow Gabriela Miranda on Twitter: @itsgabbymiranda