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13 beers on an empty table: Restaurants honor US military killed in Afghanistan

Across the country, restaurants and breweries are displaying 13 beers on a reserved table to honor the service members killed in Kabul, Afghanistan.
/ Source: TODAY

After 13 U.S. service members and over 100 Afghans were killed in Afghanistan last week, bars and restaurants around the country have set up tributes to American lives lost.

For many establishments — from Wyoming to New England — that meant setting up 13 beers at an empty table to honor the 11 Marines, one Army soldier and one member of the Navy who died on one of the deadliest days of the U.S. war in Afghanistan. The service members were killed in a suicide bombing outside Kabul's airport. More than 100 Afghans were also killed.

One restaurant employee told TODAY Food that the gesture came out of a desire to show support for the military. Shannon Vazquez, the general manager at Ironwood Cafe in Westlake, Ohio, said she was inspired to set up the display after realizing that one of the men killed in Afghanistan was an Ohio resident.

Shannon Vazquez said the display at the Ironwood Cafe was inspired by a similar tribute she had seen online. Shannon Vazquez

"All that hit home for me … I just wanted everybody to know that we here at Ironwood support our troops and remember our fallen," said Vazquez, who said she comes from a military family. "We pray for the families that lost their friend or family member, and we need to take care of our military, support and honor our troops and fallen servicemen and women."

Teri Lippy, owner and operator of Eleven Lakes Brewing Company in North Carolina, said she and her daughter decided to arrange a tribute on one of their tables after seeing another brewery do something similar.

"We just happened to have 13 beers on the menu that day, so my daughter went and filled all the glasses and put them on the table," Lippy told TODAY.

The brewery also happened to have a flag that had been draped on the coffin of a fallen soldier several years before, donated by a patron. Lippy said she had recently put the flag in a display case and decided to include it on the table.

"I didn't know what to do with the flag, I just knew I needed to take really good care of it, and I never really knew what I was going to do with it besides hanging it on the wall … And then of course this tragedy happened," Lippy said, adding through tears that she had been "destroyed" by the loss of life and noting that many of those killed were around her daughter's age. "I didn't know what to do, I knew I had to do something, and I thought, 'That's the reason why I've been holding on to this flag for so long, so that we could pay tribute to these kids.'"

Lippy said her display will remain up for 13 days.

Teri Lippy at Eleven Lakes Brewing used a flag donated by a patron to add some extra sentiment to her tribute. Teri Lippy

At Whitey's Fish Camp, a Florida eatery, a similar display aims to disrupt the "political swinging" surrounding the tragedy and remind people about the sacrifices made by U.S. troops.

"We kind of saw the trend going on and we thought we should show support," said Alex Ham, who runs the restaurant, which was established by his grandfather, a Navy veteran. "It was sad that there was so much political swinging going on. We felt that there was a lot less focus on what's really important, which is who we lost."

Mallory Bond, co-owner of Bond's Brewing Company in Wyoming, said her restaurant has set up a display of 13 beers and is also raising money for a veteran's organization. She added that for her husband, the brewery's other co-owner, the tragedy hit home: His family has a military history and his great-uncle was even in the Easy Company unit portrayed in HBO's "Band of Brothers" miniseries.

"Military has been close to his heart and we have a lot of friends and family members who have served," Bond told TODAY. "A lot of our locals and regulars are in the military, so we thought we should do whatever we could to give back and … help out as much as we could from afar. We had it right by the front door, so when people would walk in they would stop and take a look at it."

The display at Bond's Brewing Company is also raising money for veterans in need. Mallory Bond

Bond said at least one patron has offered to match all donations raised and the brewery will also match all the funds.

"It's good to see our community come together," he said.

Vazquez, the general manager in Ohio, said it's been touching to see patrons respond to the display.

"I had one gentleman give me a hug. He was very emotional about it; he lost his grandfather in the line of duty," Vazquez said. "I had a lot of people thanking me, shaking my hand. They were extremely touched by it."

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