Spirit of St. Louis – Pick Your Charity, Pick Your Car

Restaurant family raises funds to replace missing military death benefits

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(KTVI)-- The Grindstaff  brothers are military veterans.  Their dad served as well.  Now the family that owns three restaurants wants to give back by helping military families bury their loved ones killed recently in combat.  The shutdown of the U.S. federal government has cut off the assistance that normally goes to these families.

Ryan and Jim Grindstaff were stunned to learn the government was refusing to provide promised military death benefits to families of four soldiers and a Marine killed in Afghanistan recently.   'We felt the need to step in and pick-up the slack where the government failed,' Ryan said Wednesday as he took a break from cooking his signature chicken wings and burgers.

Jefferson`s Restaurants in Mascoutah and Belleville, Illinois and Summerville, Georgia planned to donate all the profits on Wednesday to help the families.  After learning the national charity Fisher House was willing to take over the payments until government funding is restored, Grindstaff decided to funnel his collections through Fisher House.

One of the fatalities was Springfield, MO resident Sgt. Joseph Peters a 24-year old special agent assigned to a military police detachment.  He was killed in combat in Afghanistan by an improvised explosive device.

Word of the restaurant fund raiser spread quickly through the St. Louis area Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.  By noon the Mascoutah restaurant had seen its lunch crowd quadruple over a normal mid-week day.

The lunch crowd included plenty of active duty military from nearby Scott Air Force Base and veterans.  'I think it is horrific what the government is doing, not supporting these families,' said Ken Melusky of Fairview Heights.  'I commend the owners of the restaurant for doing what they are doing.'

Many patrons expressed frustration at the stalemate in Washington that prompted the shutdown and could cause the nation to default on its debt.   'I hope it gets resolved soon,' said Leslie Ludwig who comes from a military family.

Both local restaurants will remain open until 10pm Wednesday.   Jefferson`s in Mascoutah is at 1300 W. Main.  The Belleville restaurant is at 6980 West Main.

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