May is National Military Appreciation Month, and that means businesses are rolling out and/or promoting a number of discounts and freebies. 

Military Times is maintaining a running list of good deals, and we'll be adding to it all month long. If we're missing any, please email all discounts to Senior Reporter Karen Jowers:  kjowers@militarytimes.com.

RETAIL

Oakley Standard Issue: Oakley's official military site offers discounts all year to active duty, guard, reserve, Coast Guard and veterans with proper credentials.  Verify your service by sending them a photo copy of your military ID card or DD 214 through their secure account verification process.

Home Depot: All veterans receive a 10 percent discount on in-store purchases on Memorial Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day. But those who are currently serving in the military, or retired, or disabled veterans  -- and their dependents -- are eligible for a 10 percent discount on in-store purchases every day. There are certain limitations.    

Lowe's:  The home improvement retailer just changed its everyday 10 percent discount policy to include all honorably discharged veterans, all year. To get the discount, active duty, retirees and veterans should sign up online for the MyLowe's card, Lowe's personal shopping card (not a credit card.). Spouses and dependents up to age 18 also qualify, as the discount for the household is linked to the MyLowe's card. It applies to online purchases, too. There are certain limitations. 

Sears: Active duty, reserve and retired military personnel and their spouses can  receive a 20 percent in-store discount  on regular priced (5 percent off sale priced) tools, lawn and garden, fine jewelry and work boots, every day. The discount applies only to those specific categories, and can't be combed with other offers. This excludes patio, grills, Sears Hometown, outlet,  appliance showroom and hardware stores. 

RESTAURANTS

Hooters: On Monday, May 29,  active duty members and other veterans can receive a free entree from the Hooters Memorial Day menu of specific items. Call ahead to your local Hooters restaurant to find out if they are participating in this offer, and ask them what proof of eligibility you need to bring. Menu items may vary by location.   

HOTELS
 

Hilton: Participating hotels, including the extended-stay brands -- Homewood Suites and Home2 Suites -- are offering a 10 percent discount to all active, reserve and retired service members and their spouses and families, for leisure stays. The offer is valid throughout the year. Call the customer center at 800-446-6677 and request the Military Family Rate or Plan Code "MFR/PGMFR1". You must present your current military ID card at check-in. 

Red Roof Inn: Offers a 10 percent discount to all veterans all year. Offers are subject to availability at participating properties and some hotels may have blackout dates. Use VP code 606732 when booking online or when calling 800-RED-ROOF (800-733-7663).

Westgate Resorts: Military members receive 10 percent off the best available rate year-round. 

RECREATION

Blue Star Museums: This annual program offers free admission for military families to participating museums around the country, from Memorial Day through Labor Day. It's a collaboration between Blue Star Families, the National Endowment for the Arts and the Defense Department. In 2016, more than 2,000 museums across the country participated.  The link above includes a searchable-by-state list of participating museums, which will be updated as more sign on. 

Busch Gardens, SeaWorld, Sesame Place: Free admission at one of these attractions one time a year for active duty, activated or drilling reservists, and National Guard members, and up to three dependents. Register online for tickets by Sept.4. Offer expires Oct. 29.  This Waves of Honor program offer isn't  available at the front gate. It's good for one admission per person, to one park.

Disney: Active-duty and retired military members and their families can choose between a Walt Disney World 4-Day Military Promotional Ticket for $209 plus tax, good through Dec. 16, or a Disney 5-Day Military Promotional Ticket for $224 plus tax, good through Dec. 17. These tickets are purchased at the local military installation tickets and tours office. Disneyland also offers discounts on 3- and 4-day passes; head here for details.


National Park Service: Active-duty military members and their dependents are eligible for a free military annual pass to any national park that usually charges a fee.

Kings Dominion: Active and retired military can take advantage of Kings Dominion discount tickets all year.  During the Memorial Weekend Salute, members can receive free admissions with a valid ID card at the gate to the Virginia park.

Kings Island: Active-duty, retired, National Guard, veterans with honorable or medical discharge and members of the Reserve Officers' Training Corps with a government issued ID can receive free admission to the park May 26-29.

Valley Fair: Active, reserve or retired military members can receive free admissions into the park during Memorial Day, Military Appreciation Days and the Fourth of July with proof of service.  Tickets can only be purchased at the ticket booth on the day of visit.  

The Bronx Zoo and New York Aquarium: Active and reserve military members with a valid military ID can receive free General Admission tickets and a 50% discount for up to three family members in the same transaction, available only at the admissions booth. 

SERVICES

CheapAirportParking.org: Active duty members, reserve, Guard, retirees, veterans and their family members are eligible for a 20 percent discount on their regular parking rates. The organization is one of the largest providers of airport parking in the U.S., with parking at 25 airports. No ID is required.  Use the code MILTMEM at check out, or paste this URL into your browser:  http://www.cheapairportparking.org/meeting/MILTMEM

MONI Smart Security: During May, the company offers a $10 monthly discount for the first 12 months for active duty, reserve, Guard, retirees and veterans who install new systems, as well as a free Amazon Dot. Show a military ID; it's not clear what veterans need to provide. The basic security system normally costs $39.99 per month; with the discount, it would be $29.99 per month for 12 months.

Penske: Active-duty members and veteran s who  choose to move all or part of their household goods themselves,can receive discounts of up to 20 percent at more than 2,200 locations. Book your rental online for an automatic 10 percent off, and show your military or veteran identification when you pick up your truck for an additional 10 percent off. 

Project Evergreen's GreenCare for Troops: Through a volunteer network, this nonprofit provides free lawn and landscape services for families of currently deployed military personnel, and post 9/11 disabled veterans with a service-connected disability.  The program tries to help as many families as possible. While they have volunteers in all 50 states, they may not always have a volunteer immediately available to help. Project Evergreen's SnowCare for Troops also provides snow and ice removal for families of those deployed. The 10-year-old nationwide program typically offers the services for the length of the service member's deployment. To register and apply for the service, visit ProjectEvergreen.org.  

WORDS OF WISDOM

Before diving into the savings, some words of caution:
  • Check the fine print before you hit the road, and call the participating organization to make sure the offer is available when you want to be there. 
  • "Free" is not always completely free. For example, a free meal doesn't always come with a beverage, so be prepared to pay for your drink and other extras.
  • Call ahead to your local restaurant or business to make sure they're participating in any national chain programs. Double-check what they're offering, ask if there are limited hours or quantities, and confirm what identification they require.
  • Not all offers apply to veterans of all stripes. Be sure you are eligible and you have the appropriate ID/paperwork.
  • Most of the restaurants require you to dine in to get the deal. When you go into the business, let them know up front that you would like the discount or deal.
  • Not all discounts apply to the entire party. Be sure you're clear whether family members or guests are covered in the discount.
  • Always check with your local installation's tickets and tours office before making plans for travel and visiting local attractions. They work with local and national companies to offer discounts on a variety of hotels and attractions, and many of these deals are available only through that installation office. 
  • It doesn't hurt to ask a company whether they offer a military discount before you book a reservation or order from your waitress. But don't act like you expect it.
Karen Jowers covers military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times. She can be reached at  kjowers@militarytimes.com