Vote for Applebee’s 2018 Hometown Heroes
With more than 200 nominations received, it was once again very difficult for us to narrow our search for Applebee’s Hometown Heroes down to just 15 semi-finalists. As longtime supporters of our troops, TEAM Schostak Family Restaurants would like to thank all of our nominees, as well as the brave men and women they have served with, in their selfless pursuit to protect our freedom and country at-large.
Please vote below for your Applebee’s Hometown Hero! The Top 5 individuals with the most votes as of 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday, July 10, 2017, will receive our prize package of a $500 Visa gift card and a celebration at their neighborhood Applebee’s.
If you’d like a bit more information on our candidates, please see below!
Meet Our Veterans
Rev. Dr. William H Bell Jr —Battle Creek, MI
A pastor and biology teacher, Rev. Dr. Bell is also the president of the United Community Ministers Alliance. He also retired as Captain in the Air Force that is said to be willing to give you the short off his back.
Kenneth Choate —Southfield, MI
After 8 years in the Marine Corps, Ken re-enlisted in MIANG when he was nearly 40 while continuing to work his job at FCA. He is a combat decorated veteran of Desert Storm and Shield, and highly decorated during deployments in Afghanistan and Kuwait. Despite having both knees injured in Kuwait, he served with distinction while injured for 6 months, returning for several surgeries and procedures from 2015-2017. He also participates in on-going public self-defense seminars at the Martial Science Center in Southfield.
Paul Churchill—Port Huron, MI
Serving his country in Vietnam, Paul was awarded the Purple Heart. Afterward, Paul volunteered to transport veterans from Port Huron to the V.A. in Detroit for many years. He is currently fighting a disease from agent Orange, which has taken a toll on himself and his family. Paul is said to be a kind person with a loving heart and he is the kind of person that everyone would love to call “friend.”
David Huizenga—Sparta, MI
Dave served as a Medic in the Military and is now 75 years old and still helping people as a volunteer carpenter and helps his wife with distributing food and items to families in need. He and his wife started “Kids N Kans” at church 11 years ago, which collects canned good, paper products, and money for families.
Kyle Hyer—Taylor, MI
While serving overseas, in the Security Forces (MP) for the Air Force, Kyle’s hummer hit an IED. He was thrown from the turret and pinned under the hummer, suffering multiple injuries that weren’t discovered until he got out of the service. Despite several bulging discs in his back, tinnitus in his ears & PTSD, he has continued his education with the hopes of going into Law Enforcement and continues to work 55+ hours a week as an armed security supervisor.
Lt. Col. (Ret.) Roger Knopf—Muskegon, MI
Lt. Col. Knopf, served his country in the USAF from 1954 until 1974 as an F-4 pilot. While serving in Vietnam, Lt. Col. Knopf was requested to serve with the US Army as a Forward Observer with the 1st Calvary in the Ia Drang Valley, which was one of the deadliest battles in the Vietnam War. After Roger retired from the USAF, he became very active in VFW Post 3195 and served as the Commander and Quartermaster for many years. His service to his fellow veterans continued, as he also served in the positions of Commander, Quartermaster and Adjutant for the Muskegon County Council – VFW, and has participated in over 800 funerals for deceased veterans in Muskegon County. Roger continues to volunteer and has been the leader for the Greater Muskegon Memorial Day Committee for many years and is instrumental in assuring that flags are ordered and distributed to all of the Muskegon County cemeteries.
Ralph Koehler—Livonia, MI
Ralph went to the Army Recruiting Station to sign up for the Military during the Vietnam War and was told to come back when he gained 45 lbs. He was determined to serve his country and got into the Air Force Reserves, serving as an Air Force Fireman. When he left, he was the Assistant Fire Chief at Selfridge Air Force Base in Mount Clemens, Michigan. He was responsible for all the air crash landings. He learned so much in the service that he is now in charge of restoration at the Yankee Air Force Museum, working to restore airplanes.
Dustin Mohr—Adrian, MI
Dustin served in the army for several years until he suffered an injury overseas. His heart and soul was in serving our country, and he was willing and prepared to make every sacrifice to keep our freedoms. Since returning from deployment, Dustin continues to serve in our community. He is a volunteer firefighter and is a big supporter of the Wounded Warrior Foundation.
Johnny Ortiz—Greenville, MI
A marine, Johnny throws a pizza party every year at the Grand Rapids Hospital for Veterans, thanking everyone for their service while ensuring everyone gets what kind of pizza they like. Alongside his pizza parties, he is also a well-known boxing announcer, who before the start of every show acknowledges veterans and active military by having them stand up to get a round of applause. His favorite thing to say is ‘Freedom is not free’ and it truly isn’t.
Rich Pergler—Ionia, MI
Rich served 6 years in the Armed Forces and a regular at Applebee’s. Every day he picks out at least one family, group of friends or a couple of ladies and pays their bill—and he always pays for other veterans when they come in. He regularly pays it forward, which causes a pay it forward loop to go from table-to-table. He also always makes sure to shake the hands of other veterans who come in to show his appreciation for their service. He always makes sure to leave everyone in a better mood than when he arrives.
Peter J Sweltz—Ann Arbor, MI
Pete is a 92-year-old WWII Disabled American Veteran. He was wounded by an explosive while aboard a ship in the South Pacific. He has been a life member in Disabled American Veterans, American Legion, and VFW (Veteran of Foreign War). Pete has held many positions in these organizations including local Post/Chapter Commander. He has accumulated many hours of volunteer work and fund raising for veteran’s benefits.
Josh Tilton—Chesterfield, MI
An active duty sergeant, Josh is very knowledgeable about his job, the Marine Corp, and many other topics. He is said to be the type of guy that when he speaks, you listen because you can learn a lot from him. He is constantly trying to make the rest of the Marines around him better and is a valuable asset to the Marine Corp.
Tom Holmes—Northville, MI
Tom Holmes (who turns 100 years old on July 13th) is said to be an inspiration to everyone he comes in contact with. His vibrant and humble attitude towards life is incomparable. He served in WW2 in the 3rd army, 10th armored division. He served all over during the war, including in the pacific as an “island hopping” soldier. He was also in the Battle of the Bulge. Later he took 2 bullets to the head as a platoon sergeant on April 14, 1945 during a recovery effort, yet continued to provide detailed guidance and direction to his soldiers. He was even ejected from his jeep and lost consciousness briefly; when he came to, his first thought was to continue shouting orders to help his men. He always put his men first. He lost part of his scalp and had a metal plate inserted in his skull for the rest of his life. He went on to earn 2 silver stars, a bronze star, a distinguished unit citation, and a purple heart. After all that, he returned stateside to be an elementary school principal in Dearborn. He continues to serve his community be being a constant reminder of what a true patriot looks like!
Bob Wilkinson—Michigan Center, MI
Bob served during the Vietnam War as a member of the U.S. Navy. He has continued to serve the people of Michigan by participating in the Vietnam Veterans of America Jackson Chapter 109. He had previously been named serviceman of the year for Chapter 109. This veterans group presents School Assemblies on Patriotism, Presentations on the Flag and the Vietnam War, Parades, Opening Ceremonies, among many other things for our community. Bob also plays Santa Claus for many of the service organizations in the Jackson area.
Pamala Young—Wixom, MI
Pamala served her country for 20 years. Two years before her retirement, she lost her husband to cancer, the next year she was diagnosed with breast cancer. That did not stop her. Now, she volunteers her time at the local Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) post as the treasurer since 2004. She has held many other positions within the VFW; including at the post, county, district and national levels. She has worked all elections since 2007, where she serves as the Chairperson. She is on the Wixom Cemetery Board. She was awarded the Walled Lake Consolidated School District Golden Apple Award for the many hours she volunteered with Advancement Placement Testing. Pamala is the Chartered Organization representative for Boy Scout Troop 102 and Cub Scout Pack 102. Last year she helped an 82-year old veteran widow, who was moving to Texas to be close to her daughter, pack up her belongings and get her ready for the movers.