Wall of Honor used to highlight local veterans

Published 10:38 am Monday, November 2, 2020

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By: Donnamy Steele

Celebrating veterans is something Patrick Kirkland does year-round. As the owner of Big Mike’s, he has implemented a wall of honor to celebrate veterans and active duty at all 5 locations.

The project first began one year ago when Kirkland and his wife decided to put up photos of his grandfather at the Andalusia location.

“This was a local veterans project we wanted to personally take on,” Kirkland said. “We are a mom and pop franchise still. Me and my wife live here in Andalusia and we adopted it at all of our locations. We just adopted it with our last restaurant in Auburn.”

Kirkland and his wife first moved to Andalusia four years ago to invest in Covington County and the city of Andalusia, Kirkland said.

”We began to plant our roots so to speak. Since then, we have had 3 beautiful children. This is our home now,” Kirkland said. “Although our family is not local, they are what drives us to do this remembrance. We owe it all to those who served. We have many many locals who have multiple generations on this wall. We even have a server who was in the military and her family is up there also.”

Kirkland’s grandfather, stepfather, and brother-in-law are some of the many veterans honored on the wall.

“We take photos from current to great great grandfathers,” Kirkland said. “My grandfather was in WWII and he is in the middle. Currently, my stepfather has done a 14-month tour in Kuwait. We have some current military, past, and there are a few older ones. We have a good bit of Korea and Vietnam veterans, and anywhere from Desert Storm to Afghanistan.”

The back wall in the restaurant is quickly filling up with photos of local veterans, ranging from WWII to today.

“This is something that me and my wife had been wanting to do for a while,” Kirkland said. “We took it and ran with it. We currently have almost 100 photos up and I have more ready to go.”

Kirkland plans to fill the walls of the restaurant with photos, hoping to eventually surround the American flag that hangs on the wall with them.

“We focus on feeding American blue-collar people and the veteran thing worked out flawlessly,” Kirkland said. “It’s not just something we do for two weeks, we will have it until the walls fall down because it’s important for us to remember them daily and for everyone to see it on the wall. You get chills when people bring photos and tell stories and it’s a way to honor them.”

When people bring photos of their loved ones to Kirkland, he enjoys hearing their stories. Having photos that show small yet intimate moments, such as a parent seeing their child after a deployment, are encouraged by Kirkland.

“If you look in the middle there’s my grandfather receiving his memorial blanket and that’s where we started,” Kirkland said. “We accept any type of photos, especially of beautiful little moments.”

As a business owner, Kirkland said he wants to give back to veterans in this small way. He hopes that more local businesses will consider adding a wall of honor at their locations to show their support for local veterans.

“This is a project I think a lot of businesses should base around,” Kirkland said. “A man like me or any of us in our group could not have a business like this without the people who fought for it. We’ve all been able to work our butts off and we have a beautiful atmosphere and we want to give it back to them.”

Photos can be dropped off at Big Mike’s Steakhouse or emailed to bigmikessteakhouse@gmail.com. Kirkland recommends bringing an 8×10 photo to the restaurant to ensure the photos are of good quality. “Just bring them by and drop them off at the hostess stand or ask for a manager or owner,” Kirkland said. “We will add their name, rank, and branch with the photo and we’d love to hear the stories.”