A family tradition of military service has led Anne Griffiths, proprietor of the Mess Hall restaurant at 1064 Drinker Turnpike in Covington Twp., to demonstrate her respect and gratitude to veterans and service men and women in a visible and meaningful way. The restaurant is chock full of military memorabilia, including vintage photos of customers, hats and medals, and even an actual parachute suspended from the ceiling.

Anne’s interest in the military life goes far deeper than simply creating a snazzy armed forces theme for her eatery’s decor, however. She has made it her mission to lend a hand to folks like homeless veterans, whom she helps to find apartments and employment, and to the families of military personnel who are currently deployed, by helping them with things like acquiring appliances and obtaining food vouchers.

“When you eat here, you give back. We give each week after the bills are paid,” said Anne. She added, “I believe I am doing God’s will to help these men and women. It’s tough, but every little dollar helps. The more people eat here, the more it helps me to keep giving.”

Not only does Anne provide concrete help to those in need, Anne also offers something that many might say is equally as important: a interested ear, ready to listen to veterans young and old as they reminisce about their time spent in service to their country.

“I talk to everybody who comes in this door, and everyone tells me a story,” she said. Anne listens, draws personal inspiration from her customers’ stories, and sometimes, shares them with others when she feels the retelling of a particular tale might help someone come to terms with his own life experiences or might make someone’s day a little brighter.

In addition to collecting the stories of those who visit the Mess Hall, Anne collects and displays military memorabilia. The items in the restaurant are not things purchased at a flea market or yard sale though; they are all items whose provenance Anne is familiar with. “Everything that’s in this building tells a story. That’s what I love about it so much!” she remarked. Some of the items are Anne’s personal mementos, while others have been donated by customers who are touched by Anne’s obvious dedication and compassion.

Drawing on her past experiences as a restaurateur, Anne decided to open an eatery once her seven children were old enough that she had time to devote to the obligations of being a business owner. Her sons, Chase in the Army and Christopher in the Navy, were part of what inspired her to develop her restaurant’s military theme, including christening the establishment with the name the Mess Hall.

The restaurant features American cuisine, with everything prepared fresh to order, including meat that is delivered every other day, bread and rolls baked by restaurant staff, and locally made pierogies. The menu includes a wide selection of foods, ranging from burgers and fries to more sophisticated dishes like veal marsala, stuffed manicotti, dill salmon, and caprese salad. Breakfast is available all day, and customers are welcome to bring BYOB.

The Mess Hall offers catering and delivery, as well as a 15 percent discount for veterans and members of the armed forces. Tuesday is pizza and wings night, while Thursday is steak night with 10 oz. New York strip steaks for $9.95. Saturday and Sunday mornings feature a $10.95 breakfast buffet, with a chocolate fountain, non-alcoholic frozen strawberry daiquiris and piña coladas, and made-to-order omelets prepared right in front of the customers.

Reviews of the Mess Hall on the restaurant’s Facebook page have had a lot of great things to say about the delicious food, the generous serving sizes, and the overall dining experience. Many of the customer reviews also mention the friendliness of the people who work at the Mess Hall, including Anne, who strives to make each and every guest feel welcome with her warm personality and her genuine interest in getting to know her customers’ stories.

That welcome is sometimes more than just a friendly smile and great service. Truly demonstrating her commitment to America’s service men and women, every day Anne gives at least one customer a check that doesn’t have a total price for the meal, but rather, that says “Free. Thank you for your service. You’re my hero of the day!”

Anne hasn’t been able to see her sons Christopher and Chase for a long time because of their military assignments, but with their photos gracing the wall of her restaurant, she has a constant reminder that her own heroes are out there serving our country and counting the days until they can come home again. Until then, she shares her compassion, her generosity, and her kindness with those who, like Chase and Christopher, give their all to ensure that America remains the “land of the free and the home of the brave.”