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America Supports You: Restaurant Owners Give Night Out to Recovering Troops
America Supports You ^ | Linda D. Kozaryn

Posted on 08/20/2006 1:31:59 PM PDT by SandRat

WASHINGTON, Aug. 20, 2006 – Over the past two and a half years, about 500 severely wounded servicemembers and their families have enjoyed 5,000 free dinners out on the town thanks to Hal Koster and Marty O’Brien. “Some of them have come to multiple dinners because some of them are here for years,” Koster said Aug. 18, as he looked over the 60 or so guests dining on the rooftop of The Exchange restaurant here.

About 20 servicemembers, many in wheelchairs and prosthetics, family members and other guests dined overlooking a panoramic view of the U.S. Capitol, and the Washington and Jefferson monuments. Koster, a Vietnam veteran, moved among them like a kindly, white-haired grandfather.

“These people have done a lot for us,” he said. “They’re wonderful people, and it’s a pleasure to do this.”

Koster and O’Brien are former co-owners of Fran O’Brien’s Stadium Steakhouse here. They launched the weekly dinners at their restaurant in October 2003 for wounded troops recuperating at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here and the National Naval Medical Center, in nearby Bethesda, Md.

Since then, numerous volunteers, fellow veterans and other supporters have helped to continue the weekly dinners. Two “peer” visitors hand out dinner invitations to the patients, Koster said. Tim Mayer, a Department of Veterans Affairs employee, lost both his legs in Vietnam. Air Force Lt. Col. Andrew Lourake, who lost one leg above the knee in a motorcycle accident, continues to serve on active duty.

“They’ve gone through training at Walter Reed to learn how to interact with the patients,” Koster said. They go see the patients two or three times a week to see how they’re doing. They start giving invitations the day the guys hit the ward. It gives (patients) something to look forward to.”

Doctors and nurses at the military hospitals also seek invitations for patients.

“A doctor will call and say, ‘There’s a patient here; I think he needs to get out. Would you please give him an invitation?’” Koster said. “The nurses at Ward 58 (for traumatic brain injuries) will say, “There’s a family here and their son or daughter can’t come out yet, but the family needs a night out, would you please invite them.’

“We’ve been doing this long enough now,” he said, “that most of the people at Walter Reed know about the dinners, so if they see a person they think really could benefit from a night out they’ll give us a call and we’ll give them an invitation.”

Once they get an invitation servicemembers call a reservation line. “They have to call in by Wednesday afternoon so we know how many buses to get, how much food to get,” Koster said.

When Fran O’Brien’s lease was cancelled and the restaurant closed in early May, the dinners literally became a moveable feast. “We go from place to place,” Koster said. “The Italian ambassador hosted one. We’re going to be at the former Taiwanese ambassador’s residence next week. The Capitol Hill Club does one a month. The Hamilton Crown Plaza Hotel does one a couple of times a month or whenever we don’t have a place.”

Some host the dinners while others pay the bill, he noted. The Armed Forces Foundation, for example, sponsors dinners hosted once a month at the Capitol Hill Club. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne hosted one at the department a couple weeks ago; VA leaders sponsored that dinner.

“A few months ago, sponsors paid for a dinner hosted here at the Exchange Restaurant,” Koster said. “Tonight, The Exchange is hosting and sponsoring the dinner -- they’re actually donating the dinners.”

Taking a short break from excitedly running hither and yon feeding his guests oysters and prime rib, Exchange owner Jimmy Nicopoulos said he begged to have the opportunity to serve the wounded veterans. “I just had to do it,” he said.

A Washington, D.C., native who’s moved no more than two blocks in 46 years, Nicopoulos said his brother was an airborne ranger who now works for the Defense Department in Europe. “That’s as close to the military as I have had the privilege of being.”

When government officials eating at The Exchange congratulated Nicopoulos for hosting the first dinner, he felt their praise was undeserved.

“I didn’t do anything, I was sponsored,” he stressed. “So I said I’m going to do one myself so when they congratulate me I don’t feel like an idiot. Now I can say, ‘Yes, I did, and I thank you, and I’m doing it again because it was cool.’ The next one I want to do burgers and sloppy joes -- something a little fun. Throw fries around, a couple pickles, cole slaw, something a little bit more picnicy.”

Nicopoulos said it’s hard to find words to describe what occurs at the dinners.

“It’s so much fun,” he said. “To look at parents’ eyes when they see their kids a little bit happy -- ‘a little bit’ meaning that they’re out of the hospital, they’re in a new environment and there’s hope. That’s so satisfying.

“It just feels good,” he said. “It’s right. You can’t describe it. You’ve just got to feel it and then you walk along with a smile.”


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs; US: District of Columbia; US: Maryland
KEYWORDS: america; bethesda; franobriens; give; night; out; owners; recovering; restaurant; supportourtroops; troops; walterreed; wia

1 posted on 08/20/2006 1:32:01 PM PDT by SandRat
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To: 91B; HiJinx; Spiff; MJY1288; xzins; Calpernia; clintonh8r; TEXOKIE; windchime; Grampa Dave; ...
Get the word out to the D.C. Freepers here's a Restaurant to support.
2 posted on 08/20/2006 1:33:20 PM PDT by SandRat (Duty, Honor, Country. What else needs to be said?)
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To: Coop; DCPatriot

ping


3 posted on 08/20/2006 1:37:33 PM PDT by RDTF ("We love death. The US loves life. That is the big difference between us two. Osama Bin laden)
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To: SandRat

Not sure but this may be it:

http://www.theexchangesaloon.com/

1719 G Street NW (202) 393-4690


4 posted on 08/20/2006 1:40:09 PM PDT by RDTF ("We love death. The US loves life. That is the big difference between us two. Osama Bin laden)
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To: RDTF; SandRat
For anyone interested in financially supporting these wonderful dinners, here's where to go:

http://www.aleethia.org/

5 posted on 08/20/2006 1:44:20 PM PDT by Coop (No, there are no @!%$&#*! polls on Irey vs. Murtha!)
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To: gate2wire; Just A Nobody; trooprally; tgslTakoma; W04Man; Jimmy Valentine's brother; PleaDeal; ...

God bless all the folks making these dinners possible for our wounded heroes.


6 posted on 08/20/2006 1:46:26 PM PDT by Coop (No, there are no @!%$&#*! polls on Irey vs. Murtha!)
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To: daybreakcoming; StarCMC; patriciaruth; kattracks; airborne; 4integrity; mware; shezza; knuthom; ...
Heroes ping.

And our family is still boycotting Hilton.

7 posted on 08/20/2006 1:49:47 PM PDT by Coop (No, there are no @!%$&#*! polls on Irey vs. Murtha!)
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To: Coop

Can I stay at a Sheraton?

Bump!


8 posted on 08/20/2006 1:50:51 PM PDT by fanfan
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To: fanfan

Heroes helping heroes.

These people are wonderful. Please support them by stopping by thier place if in the area.


9 posted on 08/20/2006 1:53:11 PM PDT by Ueriah
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To: Coop

Has O'Brians found a new location yet?


10 posted on 08/20/2006 1:59:31 PM PDT by patton (LGOPs = head toward the noise, kill anyone not dressed like you.)
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To: RDTF
That's the one:

For more information please contact: Jimmy Nicopoulos: (202) 393-4690

I sent Mr. Nicopoulos a thank-you e-mail. This is such a wonderful thing to do, and he's doing it for all the right reasons.

11 posted on 08/20/2006 2:02:10 PM PDT by hsalaw
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To: Ueriah

We don't eat out much. We have a big green egg. ;-)


In a car dealership the other day, I saw Support Our Troops magnets proudly displayed.
I told them I was very pleased to see the support.


12 posted on 08/20/2006 2:03:11 PM PDT by fanfan
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To: SandRat

When one door closes..... Why donate we do a fund raiser here and have FR sponsor one?


13 posted on 08/20/2006 2:10:41 PM PDT by CindyDawg
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To: SandRat

God Bless the people who make this happen.


14 posted on 08/20/2006 2:17:51 PM PDT by Doctor Raoul (New York Times? Get a rope!)
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To: All
Ok.... How about we exchange donate for don't and see if that post makes more sense:") ?
15 posted on 08/20/2006 2:28:21 PM PDT by CindyDawg
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To: SandRat; Coop

What a great report .
Bump to ya.
[Mrs T]


16 posted on 08/20/2006 2:46:17 PM PDT by trooprally (Never Give Up - Never Give In - Remember Our Troops)
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To: Coop
Right on!

A Bumper Sticker or T-Shirt is just NOT enough!


17 posted on 08/20/2006 4:03:47 PM PDT by W04Man (Bush2004 Grassroots Campaign We Did It! NOW.... PLEASE STAY THE COURSE!)
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To: W04Man

Well said


18 posted on 08/20/2006 4:12:41 PM PDT by Coop (No, there are no @!%$&#*! polls on Irey vs. Murtha!)
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To: CindyDawg; Jim Robinson; SandRat
Why donate we do a fund raiser here and have FR sponsor one?

Ok.... How about we exchange donate for don't and see if that post makes more sense:") ?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

CindyDawg, you made enough sense that I deleted my post I was composing along the same lines!

A FR-sponsored dinner for our troops makes a huge amount of sense -- and it would be a big plus for FR's image...

I'm retired on a fixed, limited income, but I'd gladly give up something to sponsor one troop's dinner!

With all the patriotic horsepower FR can muster, I don't see why this couldn't become a new form of FR 'activism'...

Count me in...

19 posted on 08/20/2006 4:14:45 PM PDT by TXnMA ("Allah": Satan's current alias...)
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To: CindyDawg; Jim Robinson; SandRat

Count me in!!
Ms.B


20 posted on 08/20/2006 4:23:05 PM PDT by MS.BEHAVIN (women who behave rarely make history)
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To: MS.BEHAVIN; CindyDawg; Jim Robinson; 91B; HiJinx; Spiff; MJY1288; xzins; Calpernia; clintonh8r; ...

You mean sorta like a Freep-A-Thon? With progress bar and all?

I'm in!


21 posted on 08/20/2006 4:29:48 PM PDT by SandRat (Duty, Honor, Country. What else needs to be said?)
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To: CindyDawg

Credit card out and ready. Let's roll!


22 posted on 08/20/2006 4:32:22 PM PDT by umbagi (Monthly Donor [entry level])
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To: SandRat

Yep!!!!!
So how do we begin?
ms.B


23 posted on 08/20/2006 4:34:57 PM PDT by MS.BEHAVIN (women who behave rarely make history)
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To: MS.BEHAVIN

Well, Jinx is doing something like this for Proud Patriots, Would help if JR would chime in.

OH! I Got an Idea To Start it off. Get Lady Jag to put her Artiste skills to work for advertising that can run the duration of the fundraising with a goal of oh let's say a Special New-Years Eve at some DC place.

Wonder if we can get the WR FRs to work with the three in this story to recon a good place to set things up in DC for the WR and Bethesda Wounded Troops.

Then we need some sort of collector or banker, JR!!!!!

We'll need donation forms for the web too,..........


24 posted on 08/20/2006 4:45:59 PM PDT by SandRat (Duty, Honor, Country. What else needs to be said?)
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To: SandRat; Brad's Gramma

Hey!
I know someone that can help!
Grammie!!!!!
YOO HOO!!!!
Grammie!!!!!
Ms.B


25 posted on 08/20/2006 4:50:06 PM PDT by MS.BEHAVIN (women who behave rarely make history)
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To: MS.BEHAVIN

Now that's not nice taking advantage of a little ol Gramma ... LOL!!


26 posted on 08/20/2006 4:52:20 PM PDT by SandRat (Duty, Honor, Country. What else needs to be said?)
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To: SandRat; All
You mean sorta like a Freep-A-Thon? With progress bar and all?

Exactly. Can we do something like that here?

27 posted on 08/20/2006 5:16:11 PM PDT by CindyDawg
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To: CindyDawg

I keep trying to Drag JR into this but he doesn't seem to be taking the calls.


28 posted on 08/20/2006 5:44:41 PM PDT by SandRat (Duty, Honor, Country. What else needs to be said?)
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To: SandRat; Brad's Gramma

LOL
There's not a person alive who can take advantage of Grammie!
I just thought she could give us some pointers!
Ms.B


29 posted on 08/20/2006 5:47:29 PM PDT by MS.BEHAVIN (women who behave rarely make history)
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To: Coop; SandRat

Bump to the TOP!!


30 posted on 08/20/2006 5:50:02 PM PDT by StarCMC ("So what was the price to betray us - Judas?" - SGT Mark Russak to Traitor Murtha)
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To: SandRat; HiJinx; BillF; Albion Wilde; tgslTakoma; Coop; kristinn; Just A Nobody; trooprally

WOW! That would be awesome!! I'd be in if we could figure out how to make it work! Wonder if some of the DC Freepers could help?


31 posted on 08/20/2006 5:53:43 PM PDT by StarCMC ("So what was the price to betray us - Judas?" - SGT Mark Russak to Traitor Murtha)
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To: SandRat

Thanks. He'll get back to us. There may be legal stuff they have to check out.


32 posted on 08/20/2006 5:54:35 PM PDT by CindyDawg
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To: StarCMC

It wouldn't be hard to pull off logistically. You know my thoughts on the matter, however...


33 posted on 08/20/2006 5:58:25 PM PDT by Coop (No, there are no @!%$&#*! polls on Irey vs. Murtha!)
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To: SandRat; SLB

Sounds like a good idea to me.


34 posted on 08/20/2006 5:59:11 PM PDT by Stonewall Jackson ("I see storms on the horizon.")
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To: StarCMC
DC Freepers would have to work with the 3 guys in this story and recon restaurants for a good New-Years' Bash and for the logistics of getting the wounded there.
35 posted on 08/20/2006 6:13:48 PM PDT by SandRat (Duty, Honor, Country. What else needs to be said?)
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To: CindyDawg
Most definitely want this on the Up-n-Up!
36 posted on 08/20/2006 6:14:53 PM PDT by SandRat (Duty, Honor, Country. What else needs to be said?)
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To: StarCMC

You have FReepmail!


37 posted on 08/20/2006 10:39:00 PM PDT by Just A Nobody (NEVER AGAIN..Support our Troops! www.irey.com and www.vets4Irey.com - Now more than Ever!)
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To: SandRat

BUMP!


38 posted on 08/23/2006 12:25:54 PM PDT by Albion Wilde (Got freedom? Thank a veteran!)
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