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A special spot for the wounded

Elani Zotos (left), who owns Jimmy the Greek Family Restaurant greets longtime customer Diane Dowd, whose son-in-law Jeremy is a Marine Corps captain. The North Stafford eatery does its part to support the military.


Patrons pulling into the parking lot at Jimmy the Greek Family Restaurant  are probably wondering about the new sign marking a special parking spot.

Erected two weeks ago, the sign at the business along Garrisonville Road in Stafford County reads: “Reserved. Combat Wounded.” In the center of the placard is an image of the Purple Heart medal established by George Washington to honor those injured in battle.

In a patriotic twist on the ubiquitous handicapped parking signs, this one reserves space for wounded service members.

With Marine Corps Base Quantico nearby, it will probably be well-used. In fact, former Marine Sgt. Kenny Lyon, a regular at the restaurant, helped erect the sign.

Lyon  lost his left leg above the knee and suffered other severe injuries in a mortar attack near Fallujah, Iraq, in 2006. Homes for Our Troops built him a house in southern Stafford last year.

Nancy Kearney, chaplain with the Blue Star Mothers of Fredericksburg, recently approached restaurant owners Demitrios “Jimmy the Greek” Zotos and his wife, Elani, about putting up the sign. It’s the first one in a fledgling nationwide effort by the Omaha, Neb.-based Wounded Warriors Family Support organization to provide them, free, to businesses.

The Zotoses, Greek immigrants who have no military service members in their family, have been ardent supporters of the military.

Over the years, “They have gone above and beyond,” said Kearney, whose oldest son, Matt, is serving with the Marines in Afghanistan, and youngest son, Kyle, is in  boot camp at Parris Island, S.C.

“I’ve never seen a business that is more supportive of our military,” she said.

After becoming an American citizen in 2006, Elani Zotos sewed an enormous flag to celebrate, and to honor her new country.  She’s made a series of successively larger ones since then as they wear out.

Inside, the restaurant displays military memorabilia, and sells T–shirts to benefit Homes For Our Troops, a Massachusetts-based veterans housing organization.

Kearney recently stopped by Jimmy the Greek’s to ask for help for a fundraiser  to send care packages to troops in Afghanistan. She mentioned the signs after learning about that program online.

She showed Jimmy Zotos a picture of one.

“Before I could finish asking, he said, ‘How can I get that?’”

John D. Folsom, a retired Marine colonel and founder and president of Wounded Warrior Family Support, said the reserved parking signs, “honor those who gave the full measure of devotion to their country  We want to give businesses across the nation the opportunity to honor that service and sacrifice on a daily basis with a parking space specially designated for [troops] awarded the Purple Heart.”

He said the organization has other requests for the signs pending and that recipients must agree to create a dedicated parking spot, and that the sign cannot be used for any other purpose.

Nick Zotos, one of the Zotoses’ sons who works at the restaurant, said, “We get a lot of military here; most are Marines, but there’s a mix.” Two other brothers, Alex and Demitrios, and Georgia, a sister-in-law, also work there.

He’s not sure whether anyone has parked in the space yet, but, “It’s an honor to have it here,” he said.

The Zotoses  operated the first Jimmy the Greek restaurant in Fredericksburg from 1986 to 1993, then  the Paradise Diner on U.S. 17 in Stafford for 13 years. They reopened Jimmy the Greek Family Restaurant on Garrisonville Road in 2006.

There’s currently no big American flag up outside, Nick Zotos said. “A lot of people have been asking about it.”

Not to worry.

“My mother is making another one and it’s going to be bigger.”

Wounded Warriors Family Support,

Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431