Military Veterans Cooked Up Tasty Dishes for Support Our Troops and Patriot PAWS

Garlic pork chop sandwich (photos by Aimee Pass)
Garlic pork chop sandwich (photos by Aimee Pass)

Summer was in full swing Friday at the 2nd Annual Grand Hall Grill Out benefit for Support Our Troops and Patriot PAWS. Grand Hall USA, parent company of Eternal hybrid water heaters and Barbeques Galore, sponsored the event by furnishing grills for competing teams of culinary students to cook on, as well as offering grills at discount prices to the public and $5 raffle tickets to win a grill or Eternal water heater.

The event and food were free, but all ticket and sale proceeds went to Patriot PAWS, a charity hand-picked by Eternal vice president Paul Home. Home, who admitted to being a dog-lover, said he wanted his company’s events to go farther than a five-star meal cooked on his company’s grills.

“I wanted to know, what can we do to have a bigger impact on the community?” he said.

Photo by Aimee Pass
Photo by Aimee Pass

Patriot pups are trained to do all the normal things service dogs do – they open doors, pick up dropped items, help their owners dress and find help in emergency situations, but they go one step farther for veterans who could be affected by PTSD.

“Just being there, their presence seems to alleviate that stress,” Home said. “They’re there for emotional support, too.”

The dogs put in an appearance as well. Billy, a 13-week-old black lab, and Mason, a 2-year-old yellow lab, squeezed smiles out of all the guests by performing tricks for onlookers. Mason picked up his own dropped leash and tapped handicapped door buttons, while Billy demonstrated the puppy basics.

Cute dogs, adorable tricks and free food? If you didn’t make it this year, Grand Hall will be throwing the same party in Garland next year, too.

This year, though, the teams from The Art Institute of Dallas cooked up competing dishes. Team one: grilled pork tenderloin sliders topped with Swiss and pickled Bermuda onions, with sides of grilled veggie skewers and blueberry/pineapple/apple chutney. Team two: Ponzu and miso marinated grilled flat iron steak with sides of Asian cucumber salad and grilled spicy pineapple. Both were of a much higher caliber than my current, college-student budget could regularly afford, but far beyond what one would expect for a free event.

It turns out the competing teams were lead by two military veterans, John Eager of team one and Jesse Vasquez of team two. Vasquez, who was naturally inclined to help, said he was happy serving in the Army as long as he did – 13 years – but after leaving service, he discovered his true passion. His love of cooking grew with his first experiences when working in his grandparents’ restaurant as a kid, but it took off when he entered culinary school.

“Waking up every day and having a passion for what you do is a great feeling,” Vasquez said. “I love getting up and learning something new every day.”

Aimee Pass studied journalism, English, and political science at the University of North Texas. She has been interning with D Magazine since January.