BELOIT - Saturday was a great day to be a veteran at Culver's. In honor of Veterans Day, Culver's in Beloit was the site for a daylong VetsRoll fundraiser and the Flags of Honor Veterans Day Tribute.
In addition to collecting donations and selling the patriot sundae, Beloit Culver's was putting smiles on the faces of veterans and those who love them. They honored them with songs, flags, kind words, prayers and more.
The tribute ceremony kicked off with the presentation of colors led by the Rock County Sheriff's Office Flag Team, national anthem sung by Beloit Youth-to-Youth Choir and the Pledge of Allegiance led by Jack Pokorney. The invocation was led by former Beloit Schools Superintendent Milt Thompson and a military medley tribute was presented by Joe Locke.
Beloit City Manager Lori Curtis Luther said she was thrilled to see so many youth at the event and thanked veterans for their service.
Beloit Police Chief David Zibolski had come from the funeral of fallen Rockford Police Officer Jaimie Cox earlier on Saturday where he saw veterans volunteering to hold flags.
"It reminded me of servant mindedness of veterans," Zibolski said.
Culver's Corporation executive Jeff Bonner said American veterans have carried torch for liberty, whenever and wherever needed.
Wisconsin Secretary of Tourism Stephanie Klett saluted veterans and commended Culver's for the event.
"There is no bigger heart than the Beloit Culver's, period," Klett said.
Klett also thanked the Finnegan family for hosting VetsRoll, an all-expense paid trip from the Stateline Area to Washington, D.C. giving veterans the opportunity see national war memorials and other sites. Klett said it lets veterans experience the monuments while getting the respect and gratitude they deserve.
After a flag folding ceremony with a reading of the 13 folds by Randy Gracyalny, bagpiper Tom Dummer played "Amazing Grace" and Rick West played taps.
Mark Finnegan of VetsRoll then announced that a flag had been delivered to the widow of fallen Rockford Police Officer Jaimie Cox on Friday evening.
During the Saturday ceremony, American flags were also given to Korean War era veteran Fred Klett, "Rosie the Riveter" Barbara Finnegan, Vietnam-era veteran Finn Bomgaars, and Tracy Hendricks. Later that day plans were underway to deliver a flag, and Culver's shake, to WWII veteran Harland Sockness of Rockton.
Tracy Hendricks was given a new flag box after the flag and flag box for her late husband Rick Hendricks was damaged in a September fire. Her late husband Rick was a Gulf War veteran and passed away from cancer in 2006.
Finnegan also encouraged people to record the stories of veterans in their families, so history will be accurately preserved for future generations. He encouraged veterans to speak up about their experiences and younger people to ask veterans questions.
The ceremony concluded with closing prayer, a gun salute by Beloit VFW/Marine Corps League Honor Detail and two patriotic songs performed by Rich Wisen.
In an interview before the event, Finnegan said the veterans celebration is held by 27 Culver's restaurants in Northern Illinois and Southern Wisconsin. Each restaurant picks a date between Nov. 5 and 12 to donate 11 percent of sales back to VetsRoll. In addition to collecting donations, Culver's sells the patriot sundae, a single scoop of vanilla with one red fruit and one blue fruit topping. They are sold for $1 apiece, with 100 percent of the proceeds going back to VetsRoll. Last year, Finnegan said 15 Culver's restaurants cumulatively raised $18,000 for VetsRoll.
Finnegan said VetsRoll 2018 is scheduled for May 20-23.