When an elderly WWII veteran sat down at a diner to eat alone, he ordered his usual breakfast platter. However, he was soon in tears.
Dan Rankin has lived an incredible life, one that deserves admiration and gratitude. When he enlisted to serve in WWII, the 95-year-old veteran drove a tank under U.S. General George S. Patton and helped liberate concentration camps across Nazi Germany. He is currently one of around 325,000 American WWII veterans left alive.
Of course, Rankin unabashedly displays his service, wearing an old, worn-out WWII veteran hat every day. So, when the elderly serviceman sat down to eat alone at his favorite diner in Idaho like he does each morning, he soon discovered that someone else had noticed his cap’s message and wasn’t about to sit back and watch the veteran simply enjoy his meal.
Rankin received his breakfast platter only to be told by the server that an anonymous customer had paid for his meal out of gratitude for his service. That was 3 or 4 years ago, and the 95-year-old veteran has had his meals paid for by other customers of the Dueling Irons Restaurant every day since, KHQ reports. In fact, the town of Post Falls is apparently so grateful for Rankin’s service that there is a long waiting list to buy him breakfast, leaving him with free meals for life.
“Every time I’ve asked if I could pay for his meal, someone’s already done it,” one customer said.
Thanks to his daily routine, Rankin has become a local celebrity. Customers expect to see Rankin each day between 8 and 10 a.m., according to WTSP. Although he always arrives alone, he certainly isn’t by himself for long. As soon as Rankin sits down to enjoy his meal, he is approached by local fans who request to sit with him.
“Sausage patties, hash browns, wheat toast, eggs,” Rankin told KHQ of his regular breakfast. “Once in awhile, I change.”
Despite his incredible servitude, Rankin doesn’t consider himself a hero. However, he knows that he’s one of the few people left who served in the war.
“There aren’t very many of us veterans left from World War II. I might go out and try to pick up the pieces of the tanks that the Germans shot up, see if I could put them together again,” Rankin said of his experience.
Rankin was moved to tears over the local hospitality. He explained that he never expected so many people to come together and thank him for something that happened so long ago.
“Pretty good,” he said as he teared up while talking about customers’ generosity. “There’s a lot of contributions. Really surprised me.”
Customer Keith Boe explained on Facebook that he had the chance to sit and talk with Rankin about the war. He confirmed that, after returning home, the veteran worked as a truck driver until he was 89 years old, only stopping because he broke his hip.
“He landed on the beaches at Normandy and later fought across Europe with General George Patton liberating concentration camps and he was on top of Berchtesgaden when the Germans surrendered,” Boe wrote. “He was given a 30 day ‘vacation’ and the day before they were going to ship out to the Pacific Theater, all packed and loaded up to fight over there, they told them the Japanese just surrendered. I bet that was a happy day. “
Because of the outpouring of generosity from Post Falls residents, the diner has a waiting list set up for those who wish to buy Rankin a meal. There’s been so much support that the diner doesn’t believe Rankin will ever have to purchase a meal out of pocket again.
Rankin is often moved to tears over the love and support of the locals. Fortunately, he hasn’t been forgotten or disregarded by his community like so many combat veterans experience when they return home.
For as long as he lives, Rankin will be a cherished part of his community and a local celebrity. Luckily, the people of Post Falls understand how valuable he and his contributions to his country are, and they’re not taking that for granted.