LAKE GENEVA, Wis. -- Brewers slugger Ryan Braun did something nice for active and retired U.S. military personnel in honor of Veterans Day, and it's a cause dear to his heart. Braun's Lake Geneva, Wis., restaurant offered free entrees to current and former U.S. military personnel all day Thursday at Ryan Braun's Tavern & Grill, 430 N. Broad St., in Lake Geneva, a resort town southwest of Milwaukee. The restaurant served lunch from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. CT and was preparing for a big dinner crowd from 4 p.m.-9 p.m. CT. If you're in the military now, or a veteran of service, your entrée was on the house.
"We've been brainstorming different ways of giving back to the community and people who deserve to be given back to. Our armed forces are definitely at the top of that list," Braun said. "Those men and women are extremely important. All of us have a friend or family member who has served, who has represented our country. For Veterans Day, I'm really proud to be able to do this." He's especially proud because Braun's best friend since third grade is a Navy Seal. Doug Gallagher is based in Virginia this Veterans Day, but he has served multiple tours both in Iraq and Afghanistan. "I've been able to see and hear what it's all about," Braun said. "So this is something very near and dear to my heart. I look at it as an opportunity to do something very small to say thank you to all of the people serving our country." The small gesture was appreciated. "It's bigger than he thinks it is, it really is," said Helen Arvanitakis of Lake Geneva, who served in the Navy during the 1940s. "I'm sure there are a lot of people who are happy right now just for being remembered." One of the first groups through the door for lunch included four members of the Lake Geneva Fire Department. One of them was Ryan Dion, a Whitewater, Wis., native who enlisted in the Army after Sept. 11, 2001. "I think it's a great gesture," Dion said. "There's a lot of sacrifices that are made by a lot of people the world over for this country, so any time that someone is willing to help out, no matter how big or small, I think it's important that you show up to say thank you." At the other end of the age spectrum was Grant McMillin of Elkhorn, Wis., a decorated U.S. Army veteran who served in Korea and was a prisoner of war for 32 months. He joined four other veterans for lunch and said, "It's nice to feel appreciated, that people still remember." That was the point for Braun and Tom Romano, who operates the Tavern and Grill in Lake Geneva. "We were brainstorming ideas about what we could do for the troops, and got to talking about the people who are fighting for our freedom, and I think we came up with a good idea to show our appreciation," Romano said. "It's been great to talk to some of the men and women who have fought for our country. It's a good feeling." Braun also has a restaurant in downtown Milwaukee, Ryan Braun's Waterfront. Braun said business has been strong at both locations, and Braun has become more involved in decision-making since the Brewers' season ended last month. He plans to be back in Wisconsin early next month for promotions at both locations -- on Dec. 3 in Milwaukee and Dec. 4 in Lake Geneva. He'll then travel north to Green Bay to watch buddy Aaron Rodgers and the Packers play the 49ers at Lambeau Field. When he visits Milwaukee, Braun will promote another new business venture. The latest is Limelite, an energy drink. "I've been enjoying it," Braun said. "It's a challenge."