BERNARDS TWP., NJ - About 20 veterans who are living and enrolled in programs at the Lyons Veterans Administration facility in Bernards Township were invited on July 4 to an appreciation luncheon hosted - and provided - by California Pizza Kitchen at the Bridgewater Commons mall.

Stacia McDonough, a veterans' advocate from Bedminster, said she approached then-general manager Sean Wenz months ago with the idea of inviting the veterans to a meal on the Independence Holiday.

Wenz, himself a veteran, enthusiastically supported the idea. On Tuesday, Wenz - who has since moved to manage a CPK on Park Avenue in Manhattan - helped to host the event, along with current general manager Marc Adkins and other members of the staff at California Pizza Kitchen in Bridgewater.

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Following the full luncheon, a visibly moved Wenz thanked the veterans from Lyons for the opportunity to show appreciation.

The staff at the restaurant pitched in to serve the veterans, who had a chance to relax and chat while they enjoyed the meal. Along with Wenz and Adkins, the veterans were greeted by manager Rakib Haider and servers Samantha Berrios and Cynara Sepulveda.

McDonough also invited volunteers Harriette Doll of Green Brook and Nancy Stober-McCarthy of Hillsborough. She and the volunteers had prepared gift bags for the veterans before the occasion.

McDonough has held holiday drives for six years to collect warm clothing for veterans each holiday season, but she added that the event on July 4 was a special date for her. 

Her late husband, Vietnam veteran Sgt. John E. McDonough, U.S. Air Force, 21st Tactical Air Support Squadron, had been born on July 4. "As my late husband's birthday was July 4, he was the inspiration to break bread, and celebrate our noble warriors on this most patriotic holiday," McDonough explained.