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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Vendor gives thanks to veterans with free hot dogs

Doug Bickford, who sells hot dogs in front of the Spokane County Courthouse, hands out a  hot dog Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015. Bickford, an Air Force veteran, gave out free hot dogs to veterans and gave the proceeds from other customers to veterans’ charities Wednesday. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Doug Bickford, who sells hot dogs in front of the Spokane County Courthouse, hands out a hot dog Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015. Bickford, an Air Force veteran, gave out free hot dogs to veterans and gave the proceeds from other customers to veterans’ charities Wednesday. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Chun Kao stopped by the D&D Dogs hot dog stand Wednesday outside the Spokane County Courthouse and was surprised to be told his meal was free.

Kao, an Army veteran and current member of the Army Reserves, insisted on paying.

“No, no, I don’t want any free stuff,” he said.

Hot dog stand owner Douglas Bickford, an Air Force veteran himself, offered free hot dogs to all veterans from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday. All others were asked to make a donation, and the money raised will go to the Spokane County Veteran Services office and to health care for homeless veterans.

Kao said he didn’t know about the special event when he stopped by to order a dog with onions. “I was just hungry,” he said.

When he learned that Bickford does this every year on Veterans Day to support veterans, he went back to shake Bickford’s hand and put more money in the donation jar.

David Skellie, who retired from the Air Force as a technical sergeant after 21 years, brought four generations of his family for lunch.

“We made a special trip from the Mead High School area,” he said. “Not for the food, for the camaraderie, to see who else was around.”

Bickford said he never knows how successful his event will be. The courthouse is closed on Veterans Day, so many of his regulars aren’t around. His customers Wednesday included security guards and sheriff’s deputies.

He got the idea for his annual event a few years ago when he saw some large chain restaurants offering free meals for veterans on Veterans Day.

“I thought I have the perfect opportunity and I just went for it,” he said.

It’s his way of paying back veterans for their service.

“When you’re in the military, you sacrifice,” he said. “I know what they’re going through.”

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