Vote for Applebee’s 2019 Hometown Heroes
With more than 100 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 Friday, July 12, 2019, will receive our prize package of a $250 cash gift card and $250 in Applebee’s gift cards.
If you’d like a bit more information on our candidates, please see below!
Meet Our Veterans
Jack Allen, Jr.—Grand Haven, MI
Jack not only served overseas, but he currently rides his bike for all military events or memorials volunteers to help other military families in need along with working full-time caring for his wife, his elderly and his adult son with medical issues. With all he has on his plate, he is still there for anyone. He displays our flag proudly.
Russell Bentley—Fountain, MI
After 12 years of service in the army, Russell suffers from combat PTSD. Despite his illness, he volunteered as an assistant coach for soccer and volleyball. He also served as Vice President for the Athletic Boosters Club at MCE. He volunteers helping other young men work on cars for TNT Derby Racing with his years of mechanical experience. Russ has invested his time and effort selflessly into bettering others lives in the community despite feeling sheltered with his illness.
Roger Fiscus—Coldwater, MI
Roger served Active Duty for 20 Years & 6 Months in the United States Marine Corps. He retired as a Gunnery Sergeant. He is a proud American and recommends prior service men & women to the Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VA) to receive benefits that may be available to them. He has officiated sports (Baseball, Softball, and Basketball) since 1986. He is also a Substitute Teacher in Branch, Hillsdale and Calhoun counties since the year 2000. He worked at the Battle Creek VA for about a year and a half when on Oct 8, 2008 through December 31, 2011 (3 years & 3 Months), he served in Afghanistan (Camps Phoenix, Alamo, & Blackhorse) training the Afghanistan National Army (ANA) how to drive the up-armored HMMWV’s.
David Furst—Muskegon, MI
David selflessly served his country for 20 years. He is a Vietnam vet who signed up for another tour in Vietnam so his brother didn’t have to serve. He volunteered for special forces in Vietnam, a dangerous job gathering intel and he was shot twice. His helicopter was shot down and he led the crew to safety. He also received the bronze star for continuing to fix an aircraft while being shot at. Everywhere he was stationed, he befriended the local people and helped when he could. He is still courageous as he battles cancer caused by the effects of Agent Orange he encountered in Vietnam.
Larry Gaff —Bronson, MI
Larry served during the Vietnam War as a Military Police Officer/Dog Handler. He was very dedicated to his fellow comrades. He was shot in battle and lives to talk about it today. He was honorably discharged. Larry went on to live a life of great accomplishments after his service to the country. He was a police officer, volunteer fire fighter, paramedic, and Nurse. He recently retired from his 20 year career as an RN. He spent the last several years of his career working at the VA hospital in Fort Wayne, IN. He has dedicated his life to helping others and trying to keep the peace much like he did while in the service. He currently owns and operates a campground with his wife Jane.
Nathan Johnson —Burr Oak, MI
Nathan served 16 years in the National Guard.He developed thyroid cancer, likely from his first deployment, as several gentlemen from his platoon were exposed to depleted uranium fields. He fought that battle and was deployed a second time, during which time he and his wife were blessed with a miracle baby after doctors said his cancer treatments had made him infertile. He is now on his 3rd deployment and is in the process of adopting 2 little boys. He and his wife want to make the world a better and safe place. At home he is a fireman, a medical first responder, an active father with sports and 4H with his children, and a full-time employee.
Al Kalchik —Ludington, MI
Al was drafted into the Vietnam War in 1968 as a track commander stationed in the iron triangle. His company was called “iron rangers” Bandido Charlie of the 1st Infantry Division. On August 12, 1969 his platoon was crossing through an old Michelin Tire plantation when they were ambushed by the Viet Cong. Al was the gunner on his tank. They underwent heavy fire. Al was shot, along with being hit with many pieces of shrapnel flying off of the rubber trees around him. He was luckily airlifted and taken to a secured medical unit. They worked to repair his arm, shoulder, and leg. Al was very lucky to survive a war that many did not come home from. He struggles with health effects from the war (range of motion, removal of a noncancerous tumor in his abdomen due to exposure of chemicals). However, he has always been a very positive person, who is kind to everyone he meets and never gets down. He is an extremely hard working individual who is now retired after working 44 years at a local factory. He has marched in every Memorial Day and Fourth of July Parade to honor his country and brothers/sisters in arms since returning from the Vietnam War. He was awarded a purple heart and a bronze star.
Anthony Munafo —Walled Lake/Commerce Township, MI
Anthony gives back to the community, especially military families. He owns an old classic fire truck and uses it during holidays to hand out toys to children in his community. He is very active in his church. He has many custom designed patriotic decorated vehicles and co-sponsors a fundraiser at Silver Lake Dunes called “Hero at the Dunes.” He helped out one of his fellow shipmates and sponsored the “Hike for Vets” fundraiser for homeless veterans. He’s even been seen handing out ice cold bottled water to people on the street during hot summer days.
Cassie Michael —Ann Arbor, MI
Cassie is a Marine who served in Iraq and is now earning her master’s degree in social work at the University of Michigan, where she founded a Veterans’ college readiness summer program for prospective U of M students, to help them with admissions and with transitioning into civilian life. She also has a husband who is a vet and two young children she cares for while still dedicating her time to help veterans.
Charles Pomeroy —Centreville, MI
Charlie graduated from high school in Kalamazoo and joined the Marines, where he served 4 years. After basic training at Camp Lejeune, NC, he served in Vietnam where he was wounded in battle and was awarded a Purple Heart. Upon returning home, he gave his life to Christ and raised his family in Centreville. In addition to being a family man and serving in the church, he started a business serving the hunters and outdoorsmen in his community. Today, he travels across Southwest Michigan performing with the Wasepi Bluegrass Gospel Singers.
Gerrit Veldman —Muskegon, MI
Gerrit is nominated for his military service, and continued active veteran services. Gerrit enlisted just after the Pearl Harbor attack and was inducted into the Army in April 1942. He was involved in combat operations starting in North Africa, continuing into Italy, and then through France into Germany. For his service, he was awarded the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Combat Infantryman Badge, and European-Africa-Middle East ribbon with six campaign stars. Discharged in June 1945, Gerrit became active in American Legion and Veterans of Foreign War programs. He was elected the American Legion State Commander for Michigan. He was then appointed State Adjutant for Michigan American Legion, serving 17 years in that position. Gerrit is on the Board of Managers of the Michigan Veterans’ Home. He has continued active service in the Honor Guards of both the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the American Legion, participating in many of the 150 to 200 veteran funerals each year in the Greater Muskegon area. Today, at age 98, he continues providing leadership in many veteran organizations.
Devin Dipzinski —Galesburg, MI
Devin has been enlisted in the Army National Guard for about 8 years. In that time, he has progressed to a Seargent, has volunteered for a short deployment to assist another country, was invited and passed Air assault school in Fort Benning, GA and, invited to infantry mortar leader course and graduated, and is currently a cadre at the Michigan Youth Challenge Academy working with juveniles interested in the military or in need of disciplinary help. He is a member of the Climax American Legion with an officer position, and he is currently awaiting a promotional spot as a staff seargent. Devin is a dedicated soldier that volunteers and serves his country with pride; he also comes from a very long line of family veterans and carries on their legacy with pride.
Jerry Sikkema —Wyoming, MI
Jerry served 6 years in the army and was called to Vietnam. He was hit by shrapnel, but came home safe. He continued to serve others through his years on the fire department. He developed agent orange, but it has not slowed him down in giving to others. He is a local hero and we are lucky to have him.
Dave Imber —Howell, MI
Dave served in the army for 15 years and has given to our country his whole adult life. He served a tour in Iraq and has been in the National Guard since returning. Unfortunately, he was diagnosed last year with glioblastoma, a form of brain cancer with no cure. He is terminal, and there is a chance it was caused by the head gear he wore over in Iraq. Dave continues to serve his community as a Lathrup Village police officer.
Jacob Brown —Temperance, MI
Jacob served during the Iraq war, deployed for 12 months with an extension of another 6 months. When our country was attacked on 9/11, he knew his call of duty and he answered it. He suffered great physical injuries that have been repaired through multiple surgeries, but he still carries the mental scars that war can leave. Along with his wife, they are raising their three boys, two of whom are on the Autism spectrum and are home-schooled. Despite all that Jacob has been through, he still manages being the prime source of income for his family, supporting his wife with the homeschooling and rearing of their boys.