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Veterans, first responders and barbecue lovers wait in line for the new Mission BBQ

Mike Stender, left, part of the Mission BBQ opening team, talks with Ken Ropp, right, of Germantown and Bill Marsh of Finksburg as they wait outside to be one of the first 100 customers at the restaurant's new 140 Village location in Westminster Friday, March 26, 2021. The restaurant opens for regular business Monday.
Mike Stender, left, part of the Mission BBQ opening team, talks with Ken Ropp, right, of Germantown and Bill Marsh of Finksburg as they wait outside to be one of the first 100 customers at the restaurant's new 140 Village location in Westminster Friday, March 26, 2021. The restaurant opens for regular business Monday. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Spencer Koenig, of New Windsor, was standing outside the former site of Friendly’s restaurant in Westminster cooking kielbasa on his portable stove. A long line was behind him and they all had the same mission: to be one of the first people to get free food from the new Mission BBQ for a year.

The restaurant’s grand opening is on Monday but for the last few days, invited guests and a few customers had a chance to eat its popular barbecue. Wednesday night, its first day open, was the night for local firefighters to have dinner. Thursday night was police night and Friday night was for those in the military.

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For every opening, Mission BBQ allows the first 100 customers to purchase an American Heroes Cup to win a deck of cards that gives them a free menu item for a year. One card could say “one free side” while the other says “one free pulled pork sandwich.”

Spencer Koenig of New Windsor cooks sausages on a camping stove as Beverly Petenbrink and her granddaughter Brenna Noguera, 5, look on outside the new Mission BBQ location in Westminster Friday, March 26, 2021. Koenig arrived around 5:45 a.m. to be the first person in line at the 140 Village restaurant Friday Morning.
Spencer Koenig of New Windsor cooks sausages on a camping stove as Beverly Petenbrink and her granddaughter Brenna Noguera, 5, look on outside the new Mission BBQ location in Westminster Friday, March 26, 2021. Koenig arrived around 5:45 a.m. to be the first person in line at the 140 Village restaurant Friday Morning. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Koenig arrived at the restaurant Thursday night and considered spending the night there but changed his mind and returned around 5:30 the next morning to have “the best barbecue, hands down.” He said he likes how the restaurant gives back so much and he’s happy to support them. He later tasted his kielbasa and said it tasted good “but not as good as Mission BBQ.” His favorite food on the menu is the brisket.

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Chris Black, the restaurant’s area director of operations, said Mission BBQ raised money for a charity that helps the hometown heroes. Wednesday’s was Maryland Fire Rescue Services Memorial, Thursday’s charity was Carroll County Fraternal Order of Police, and Friday’s proceeds went to the United Service Organization (USO). He said the past few nights went well and the pulled pork was a favorite.

“Our heroes are meat eaters,” he said, adding chicken was also popular as well as the mac and cheese.

Part of the barbecue restaurant’s mission is to raise money for charities and give back to law enforcement, veterans and those in the military.

Neale Knight of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, said she was the first veteran in line. She served in both the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps decades ago. She was wearing her dog tags and her the original badge she wore at a veterans vigil where she stood for 24 hours to honor those who died in service. She said around 1 p.m. on Friday she did not mind standing in line another five hours for free barbecue.

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Neale Knight, a veteran who served in both the Army and the Marine Corps, said she was the first veteran in line outside Mission BBQ to be one of the first 100 customers at the restaurant's new 140 Village location in Westminster Friday, March 26, 2021. The restaurant opens for regular business Monday. Knight, a nurse of 50 years, served as a nurse in the Army at the end of Vietnam and later joined the US Marine Corps.
Neale Knight, a veteran who served in both the Army and the Marine Corps, said she was the first veteran in line outside Mission BBQ to be one of the first 100 customers at the restaurant's new 140 Village location in Westminster Friday, March 26, 2021. The restaurant opens for regular business Monday. Knight, a nurse of 50 years, served as a nurse in the Army at the end of Vietnam and later joined the US Marine Corps. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

Knight said it was important to support something that supports veterans. And she was happy to have some of Mission BBQ’s cornbread and to order from “someone who knows how to cook a damn bean.”

Beverly Petenbrink, of Westminster, was sitting in a lawn chair next to her granddaughter, Brenna, who was curled under an umbrella on a blanket while she played ABC Mouse and ate Chick-fil-A food. Petenbrink said she arrived at 7 that morning after her daughter asked her to. It was Petenbrink’s day off, so she didn’t mind, especially since the weather was nice, she said.

The temperature was over 70 degrees. The sun was out but the wind was heavy. It blew over a tent near the back of the line. It was being used by Roger Marks, a firefighter for Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service who said he sat in line early to support USO and of course win free barbecue.

Marks sits on the committee for the nonprofit HEROES, which supports children of those who died in the line of duty in the Washington, D.C. region. Mission BBQ “makes huge contributions” to the organization, Marks said.

He was accompanied by Laura Murdock, his colleague and a captain in the Emergency Medical Integrated Health Services, along with her son, Lucas, and their service dog, Willette.

“We always support you guys because you always support us,” she said to Mike Stender, a four-year employee with Mission BBQ and a veteran.

Mike Stender, left, part of the Mission BBQ opening team, talks with Ken Ropp, right, of Germantown and Bill Marsh of Finksburg as they wait outside to be one of the first 100 customers at the restaurant's new 140 Village location in Westminster Friday, March 26, 2021. The restaurant opens for regular business Monday.
Mike Stender, left, part of the Mission BBQ opening team, talks with Ken Ropp, right, of Germantown and Bill Marsh of Finksburg as they wait outside to be one of the first 100 customers at the restaurant's new 140 Village location in Westminster Friday, March 26, 2021. The restaurant opens for regular business Monday. (Dylan Slagle / Carroll County Times)

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