Connecting Vets

© Juan Moyano | Dreamstime

Thank you for your service, here's a free vacation

October 02, 2017 - 3:09 pm
Special events are planned at many participating B&B's to make the stay extra special for visiting veterans. (B&B's for Vets photo)

by Jonathan Kaupanger

“Thank you for your service!”

As veterans, we hear this a lot. And with Veteran’s Day coming up soon, ‘tis the season for it, too.  The sentiment has often been politicized to the point of disbelief.

Except for when you find people who truly mean it and back the statement up with their own kind of sacrifice. Now in its tenth year, B&B's for Vets is a national thank-you to active duty military and veterans from members of the Association of Independent Hospitality Professionals (AIHP). Every year, B&B's across the world open their rooms to veterans free of charge around Veterans' Day weekend.

“Why wouldn’t I do it?” asked Sarah Lindblum, co-owner of the Captain Jefferds Inn in Kennebunkport, Maine and daughter of a WWII veteran. She didn’t even think twice when she found out about B&Bs for Vets.  During her first year participating, they had 11 rooms opened for the program.

“We decided the need was so great that we should open all 16 rooms,” said Lindblum.  “We believe this is the very least we can do!”

The financial hit participating innkeepers take so they can be part of this program shows they sincerely mean this “thank you."

“We’re quite sure that more than $2.75 million in free rooms have been offered to deserving vets over the ten-year tenure of this program,” said Rob Fulton, CEO of AIHP.

This all started in 2008, when a group of innkeepers in West Virginia opened their doors as a way to honor veterans on Veteran’s Day. In 2010, the program went international, and B&B’s from Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, France and Namibia set aside rooms for the program as well.

Staff at Prescott Pines B&B wait for veterans to arrive for the big weekend. (B&B for Vets photo)

The veteran connection is deep with many of the owners who are participating in B&B’s for Vets. “Our daughter and daughter-in-law are both active military,” said Susan Woodward who owns the 1830 Hallauer House in Oberlin Ohio with her Army veteran husband, Joe.  Susan and Joe have all five service branches represented in their family.

“We do it for them and all of the other military personnel.  It is great meeting people from all of the military branches and hearing them compare the services.”

This year, participating innkeepers will give at least one complimentary night’s stay during Veteran’s Day weekend. For many of the B&B’s participating, the entire property is opened to veterans and some will comp the entire weekend stay or open other dates during the month for veterans.  Most complimentary rooms are offered for November 11 this year, but this varies from inn to inn.

“The men and women in our military show great courage and resilience,” said Jimi Ballard, who co-owns The Fairview bed and breakfast with his wife, Vivian.

“We are incredibly grateful and excited to join other properties in a show of appreciation and camaraderie,” Vivian added. At present, The Fairview is the only bed and breakfast in Texas participating in the program.  But this too could possibly change as Veterans Day gets closer.

Marti Mayne, who works on the B&B's for Vets committee, explained that as Veteran’s Day gets closer, more places will open more doors for veterans.

“At the height of the program, we had about 900 inns participating,” she said. More than 500 B&B’s will be participating in the program this year, and something new is being added this year too.

“A complementary one-day innkeeping workshop is being taught for veterans who are aspiring innkeepers,” said Mayne.

The first 10 veterans who sign up can take the course for free. It’s taught by West Point graduate and Army veteran Scott Bushnell and his wife, Marilyn.  This is their way of giving back to veterans, and to sweeten the deal, the Lake Pointe Inn in Deep Creek Lake, Maryland is giving away two free nights to veterans who attend the workshop!

For veterans north of the border, inns in Canada list their rooms at  Available rooms fill up quickly and new inns and B&B’s are added to the list daily, so if you don’t find one where you want, keep checking back.

Active duty military and veterans interested in taking advantage of B&B's for Vets should contact the inn directly.  Proof of military service will be required and all policies of the inn are enforced during the free stays.