When the Lakeview Assembly of God Church of Lake Milton holds its annual pancake breakfast Saturday, it will be providing more than hotcakes and syrup. It will be serving up a heaping helping of patriotism.
For nearly 10 years, Lakeview has held a pancake breakfast over the July Fourth weekend.
"A lot of people come out to the lake for the holiday," Pastor Mike Lavelle explains. "We thought it would be nice to provide breakfast for them."
Adults can eat as many pancakes as they wish for $4. The cost for children 6-12 is $3; 5 and under are free. All proceeds go to the Lakeview women's ministries, which performs various benevolent activities throughout the year.
With the events of the past year, Lakeview decided to turn its fund-raiser into a breakfast of appreciation. All military, police, fire and emergency personnel eat for free.
"We want the community to meet and give thanks to the people who save their lives and protect their property," Pastor Mike says.
"There are citizen soldiers all around," he continues, speaking of military reservists. "They live next door to you. They run the baseball leagues. But one weekend a month, they are in uniform, working to protect our country."
"We have young men and women willing to sacrifice everything for our nation," Pastor Mike adds, referring to those in active duty. "There just isn't enough recognition."
Listening to him speak, I find my hand heading toward my heart, so inspiring are his words. Mike is more than a pastor, he is a patriot.
"I was on active duty in the Navy during Vietnam," Mike explains. For six years, he was a defender of our freedom.
"There wasn't a whole lot of recognition," he says of his return home.
"Once I decided to go back in the military as an officer," Mike shares, "part of my mission was to keep people informed."
Mike has been a military chaplain for 14 years. He delivers spiritual messages to reservists once a month, and every week he keeps his Lakeview Assembly of God congregation updated on military activity.
"Freedom isn't free," this pastor-patriot preaches. "Somebody pays the price."
"For too many years, we have forgotten them," Pastor Mike says of our freedom fighters. "As long as I'm around, they're not going to forget."
The congregation at Lakeview Assembly of God supports the pastor's patriotic passion.
When he arrives in military garb because he has just returned from the base preaching to the reservists, they don't mind his absence of a tie.
"They are very supportive," Pastor Mike says.
His patriotic fervor is spreading through the congregation.
"These kids -- and they are just kids," says church member Harvey McCleary, "put their lives on the line, and we go about our business and ignore them."
"It's time for people to get back to honoring the people who are out there working to protect us," Harvey says with the same passion in his voice as his pastor.
"Every fund-raiser is to make money," Harvey says of the church's pancake breakfast. "But this isn't just about making money."
Using Pastor Mike's military contacts, Lakeview is hoping to have a military ordnance outside on the church lawn during the breakfast.
There is even talk of a helicopter fly-in onto the lawn.
"We asked for assets from some units," the pastor explains. "Because of military movement, there may be things they may not be able to do."
Ordnance and helicopter aside, Lakeview is hoping the community will come out to support this salute to men and women in uniform.
If you are in uniform, you will eat free. A small token of thanks for protecting freedom.