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Showing Appreciation

Old Brogue Irish Pub hosts monthly dinners, where donations are matched to contribute to military veteran organizations.

“Bob really helps to bring the community together and raise funds for a spectrum of causes, including veterans’ families.”

— Cofer Black, Former CIA Official and Great Falls Resident

Military Appreciation Mondays Bring Donations

In a packed house at The Old Brogue Irish Pub in Great Falls on Jan. 13, all in attendance stood up at the request of Bob Nelson, the man who put together the event. Nelson had asked any guests with family members who had served in the military, however distant the relation might be, to please stand.

“I do this so that everyone can recognize just how much all of us are in this together,” said Nelson.

Nelson, a Great Falls resident and Realtor for Keller Williams Realty, is the chief organizer of Military Appreciation Mondays, a series of monthly dinners that brings in thousands of dollars in donations for military causes thanks to the generosity of Nelson and his co-sponsors.

This past month’s dinner was dedicated to the Navy SEAL Foundation, a nonprofit that provides assistance to SEALs returning home from overseas, as well as the families of those killed in battle.

In his pre-dinner introduction, Alan Oshirak of the Navy SEAL Foundation spoke of how 88 SEALs had been killed since 9/11, leaving behind 57 spouses and 75 children, all of whom the foundation works to support.

“It’s important work, but it’s often unheralded,” said Oshirak, a retired SEAL, before thanking the audience and Nelson for his work.

THE JAN. 13 DINNER had about 140 guests in attendance, which, with Nelson and his 18 co-sponsors each matching 10 percent of the amount that diners spend, yielded around $5,400 for the foundation. “Tonight I think we’ll be at about a 200 percent match,” said Nelson in his introductory speech for the evening.

That figure does not include the additional $2,500 in donations from restaurant patrons who paid to enter the drawing for end-of-dinner door prizes, which brought the grand donated total to around $8,000 in one night.

Nelson, a veteran himself who also worked with the State Department during the 1970s, began organizing the dinners in 2009 as Tuesday charity events for organizations such as the American Heart Association and American Diabetes Association.

He emphasizes that these dinners, however, are not charity events, but rather ways to show the community’s appreciation for America’s service members. The patrons who come in bring with them an air of enthusiasm for the causes they are supporting.

“A huge percentage of the money goes to the organizations, rather than administration and other costs, and that means a huge deal to him,” said Nancy Nelson, who helped her husband all night with presenting door prizes and accommodating guests.

Military Appreciation Mondays have helped many organizations over the past four years, such as Our Military Kids and the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund. One Dec. 2011 gathering contributed about $12,500 to the organization Stop Soldier Suicide, founded by Langley graduate Nick Black and two of his fellow Army members in 2010, which helped the nonprofit to get off the ground early on. Black’s father Cofer Black was in attendance at the most recent dinner.

“I think it’s very important for a community to support its warriors, both when they are overseas and when they return,” said Black, a former CIA official during the George W. Bush Administration. “Bob really helps to bring the community together and raise funds for a spectrum of causes, including veterans’ families.”

NELSON’S HARD WORK has not gone unnoticed. In November 2013, he was awarded a community service award from the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution for sustaining the dinner series for several years and donating to a large number of military causes.

“We felt he was a perfect candidate for the award because he has committed several years to this project,” said Holly Lynne M. Schmidt, who represents the Thomas Nelson chapter of the organization that presented Nelson with the award.

As for the future, Nelson has his eye on expanding Military Appreciation Mondays to other locations, including Reston. He says that plan is in its “infancy stage,” and he and a potential host are searching for the perfect venue. In the meantime, Pulcinella Italian Host restaurant in McLean, which has hosted dinner events in the past, is another potential location.

The next Military Appreciation Monday dinner well be at the Old Brogue Irish Pub in Great Falls on March 10, and will support the CIA Officers Memorial Foundation.