Napoleon supposedly said that an army marches on its stomach. At Golden Corral in Hesperia, they worked on keeping veterans' bellies full as well.


"This year we served 635," said franchisee Johnny Rojo. "This is a company-wide event. This is the 11th year the company has done it."


Golden Corral restaurants celebrate the Monday after Veterans Day as Military Appreciation Monday, serving up free dinners to anyone who's served in the Armed Forces. Proceeds raised from others diners' meals that day go to the Disabled American Veterans. The company and its patrons has raised more than $5.1 million over the past decade.


The free meals impact the bottom line, but it's worth it, Rojo said.


"It's a loss, it's a loss. Six hundred and thirty-five meals, that's close to $6,000 in meals," he said. "When you hear their stories, the buddies they've lost, this is the least that we can do."


The line out the door, and the resulting publicity, helps bring the restaurant to the attention of diners who might have never stopped in before, of course.


"A lot of new people came in this year that didn't know about it last year," Rojo said. "One gentleman pulled me aside and said, 'On Veterans Day, I went to two different restaurants, and their thank you was a free dessert.' ... That's half a thank you."


For his part, Rojo said he's impressed with the veterans who eat in his restaurant each year.


"They come in on crutches and wheelchairs, and they tell you, 'If I had to do it again right now, I'd go.' "