Marine Corps veterans Mark Schildknecht, front left, and Guy Iredale, right, chat with Smuggler’s Landing owner Rick Mathis after the free meal he gave veterans last week. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Marine Corps veterans Mark Schildknecht, front left, and Guy Iredale, right, chat with Smuggler’s Landing owner Rick Mathis after the free meal he gave veterans last week. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Port Angeles restaurant takes the time to thank veterans in holiday season

PORT ANGELES — For five years, a city restaurant has continued a holiday tradition of honoring the area’s veterans.

Days before Christmas, Smuggler’s Landing in Port Angeles provided free meals with dessert for veterans as a way to honor those who served their country, said Rick Mathis, the restaurant’s owner.

Mathis said he doesn’t provide the meal for any sort of recognition, but because it’s his responsibility to support the community and veterans.

Only four counties in the country have more veterans per capita than Clallam County, U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, said during the Port Angeles Business Association meeting last week.

“I as a citizen have a responsibility to each and every one of these folks because they have given so much,” Mathis said. “It isn’t just the veterans that have given; it’s their spouses and children.”

His goal is to host the free dinner on the Sunday before Christmas each year, and he typically serves up to 300 meals.

Mathis said Port Angeles has been good to him and this is just one way he can give back.

For some of the veterans who attended this year’s dinner, the generosity they saw from Mathis and his staff was a stark contrast to when they served.

That is especially true for Marine Corps veteran Guy Iredale, who said it took decades after he returned from Vietnam for anyone to show any thanks for his service.

“The difference is night and day,” he said. “It’s wonderful today.”

Mark Schildknecht, a Marine Corps veteran who also served in Vietnam, said he is thankful Mathis provides the meals each year.

Both Schildknecht and Iredale are members of the Mt. Olympus Detachment of the Marine Corps League. Schildknecht is the commandant while Iredale is senior vice commandant.

Schildknecht said he’s been attending the dinners since Mathis first started them five years ago.

“It’s nice that veterans are recognized and Rick does that every year in a big way,” Schildknecht said.

________

Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsula dailynews.com.

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