CABOT, Ark. (KARK) – Restaurants and bars across the state are honoring the 13 U.S. military men and women killed in Afghanistan last week.
One restaurant in Cabot is finding multiple ways to make sure their service and sacrifice does not go unnoticed.
As people filter into Mean Pig BBQ in Cabot to get their pork sandwich or Frito pie, they may notice a long table in the center of the restaurant with 13 meals and 13 empty chairs around it.
“They gave their lives. They’ll sit there for the entire month of September to honor the 13 fallen,” Owner Buddy Merritt said.
Merritt said each seat left empty represents the 11 Marines, Navy Sailor and Army Soldier killed in the suicide bombing in Kabul.
“It broke my heart because they were so close to coming home and so many families are going to be changed,” Merritt said.
As a retired Air Force veteran himself, this tragedy hit even closer to home.
“My father, myself and my father-in-law are all retired military. I have served in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Yemen, Oman, Bahrain, Korea. It’s very emotional. I’ve lost friends. I’ve watched people change, come back different people because of what they endured and what they had to live with over there,” Merritt said.
That’s why he is going to donate one dollar per meal sold in September to a military organization in honor of the 13 service members.
“I just want to take care of those who take care of us,” Merritt said.
As each customer walks in the doors, he hopes the tribute serves as a reminder of their service and sacrifice.
“I hope they’re moved. I hope they get a tear in their eye. I hope they look up the names, say their names and remember the Marines and the Soldiers that were killed,” Merritt said.
He is also reaching out to family members of the men and women killed to see where they would like to see the funds go.