Businesses throughout Sonoma County showed their appreciation for veterans, current service members and their families Thursday with free goods and services, and even hot chocolate and massages.

"We just want to give back to the service people who do so much for us," said veterinarian Dr. Lee Thorne at Santa Rosa's Alderbrook Pet Hospital. "You don't have to believe in the wars we're in or anything to appreciate how much they've done and the sacrifices they make for us."

Alderbrook offered free pet exams, vaccines and nail trimmings for up to two animals in military households.

Veterinary assistant Genn Sutliff worked to organize the countywide effort of Freedom Day USA, getting Piner Printing to donate the cost of copying brochures and helping pass them out to veterans' facilities.

The first-time event was a nationwide occasion to thank service members and their families for their sacrifices, whether they fought overseas, assisted in other capacities for the military or supported a family member in the services.

Businesses in Santa Rosa, Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Cotati and Sonoma participated. In Sonoma County, services included business advice, hair cuts, family law consultations, organizing service, dental services and more.

Good To Go Military Surplus in Cotati was offering a free P-38 "John Wayne" can opener to anyone who asked.

The event was founded by Dr. Robert Martino, the owner of West Virginia's largest dental chain, and expanded through the work of an association of dentists throughout the country.

Martino's idea was to give the members of the military a "freedom day" of their own, where they were offered free goods and services as thanks for protecting others' freedom, according to the organization's web page. It is planned as an annual event for the second Thursday in September.

Jaco Grobbelaar, owner of Broadvision Marketing in Petaluma, offered a strategy session to military members with businesses or those interested in starting one.

As a veteran of the South African military, Grobbelaar said he wanted to give back.

"I thought, 'What is my contribution?' America is my new country here," he said. "If you're a veteran, you have certain skills. When a veteran tries to start a new business, there are so many marketing opportunities available."

Sutliff of the veterinary office said several service members came in with their pets Thursday, including veterans from World War II and the Korean War.

"Everyone in the U.S. has a connection to military families," she said. "They serve for our country, our freedom, for us to live the way we do. Some of us have a personal connection with a family or friend serving, but at Alderbrook, we feel like for everything they do for us, protecting us and our rights, we wanted to thank them for that."

As a bonus, all dogs from military families that came in Thursday went home with "freedom bandanas."

(You can reach Staff Writer Lori A. Carter at 762-7297 or