Christmas came a few days early for the folks at the Norman Veterans Center on Thursday afternoon.
The veterans showed up for the third annual Christmas Luncheon wearing their festive attire, including reindeer antlers, Santa Claus hats, elf ears and Christmas sweaters. Soon, food from Billy Sims BBQ arrived as veterans were treated to a tasty meal.
It wasn’t just any luncheon. Billy Sims, former OU Heisman Trophy winner and restaurant owner, arrived and delivered the food himself, which delighted the veterans and the staff.
Sims delivered the food and then gave a quick speech to the veterans. Once the plates of food were dispersed, Sims went around to each veteran to shake their hands and sign autographed pictures of his playing days at OU back in the 70’s.
Sims said he was fortunate to have the opportunity to deliver the food personally and speak with the veterans.
“I have so many friends and family members who have served in the military, so veterans have always been special to me,” Sims said. “I’m just happy to be here and speak with all of them. I would stay all day and come more often if I could.”
Sims and his staff brought $2,000 worth of food, including ribs, brisket and potato salad for all of the veterans and staff at the center. Roy White, chairman of the residents council at the NVC, said he appreciated the work they put in to show their appreciation to the local veterans.
“We called them to see if they’d be interested in being a part of the luncheon this year, and Billy said yes,” White said. “They offered to (pay) most of the bill and they have bent over backwards to help us. They took care of everything. It means a lot to us to have them here.”
Along with Sims, Norman law enforcement officials helped pass out the plates of food to the veterans. Jose Chavez, Cleveland County Deputy Chief of operations, served in the U.S. Army for 20 years and was one of the lawmen helping serve the veterans.
Chavez said he always looks for opportunities to give back to veterans in the community.
“Our veterans have done so much to protect the lives of everybody in this city and in this country, and sometimes I think we forget that,” Chavez said. “The least we can do is come out and support them and serve them a meal to thank them for their service.”
The luncheon is an opportunity to thank veterans for their service, White said, and he’s confident everyone was able to come together and do that on Thursday.
“Everything we do here (at the Norman Veterans Center) is for these men and women who have served,” White said. “That’s what it’s all about.”