Ed Danberry Of American Heroes Smokehouse

Sean Adams/WCBS 880

Stories From Main Street: New Jersey Restaurant Chain Honors True American Heroes

August 26, 2018 - 4:00 pm

WAYNE, N.J. (WCBS 880) -- U.S. Army veteran Ed Danberry’s chain of New Jersey barbecue restaurants is called American Heroes Smokehouse – and it’s more than just a name.

As WCBS 880’s Sean Adams reported in this week’s edition of “Stories from Main Street,” you might think the reference to “heroes” refers to a sandwich. But it most assuredly does not.

After the cashier asks if you want brisket and beans or pulled pork and slaw, there comes a question, “Are you a veteran?”

“We give a discount to all veterans – 20 percent to veterans – and we give a 100 percent discount to Gold Star Family members,” Danberry said.

Families that have lost someone in the military do not pay a penny at Danberry’s restaurants.

“We opened up a number of new restaurants with the intent of hiring veterans,” he said.

First responders get a 10 percent discount. And on the walls, there are posters and plaques honoring America’s finest.

“The first hero we recognized was Gunnery Sgt. John Basilone, who was a Medal of Honor and Navy Cross recipient,” Danberry said.

Basilone, who was killed during the Battle of Iwo Jima in World War II, was from Raritan, New Jersey – where Danberry grew up.

Another Medal of Honor recipient Danberry’s restaurant recognizes is Mary Walker – the only woman so far who has received the medal.

“She was an abolitionist, she was a feminist, she was a surgeon during the Civil War, and they told her she couldn’t be a surgeon because she was a woman; that she had to be a nurse,” Danberry said.

Danberry himself served stateside during the Vietnam War. A poster in his home lists 60 ancestors who have fought for this country – some who go back to the very beginning.

Danberry Military History
Sean Adams/WCBS 880

“They served with the New Jersey 4th Light Dragoons, which was cavalry; Washington’s eyes,” he said, “and they’ve been serving this country ever since.”

Danberry says he grew up poor. He is a successful entrepreneur now, with businesses that support airports.

The restaurants are more of a personal passion.

“The restaurants – we don’t really do phenomenal,” Danberry said. “We actually hope that we break even, because it’s more about giving back and recognizing people.”