There is a new centerpiece hanging on the mantle at the Nite Hawk Bar and Grill in Slater these days, courtesy of a very special customer.

Nite Hawk Bar and Grill owner Shawn Birdsall received a unique visit recently from Wes Vansickel, of Johnston. Vansickel rode his bicycle up the High Trestle Trail, along with a few of his military friends, to present a commemorative American flag that was flown over Shorab, Afghanistan, on Sept. 11, 2018. The flag was flown in honor of the Nite Hawk Bar and Grill.

Vansickel travels the High Trestle Trail frequently and is a loyal customer of the Nite Hawk. He and Birdsall have developed a “Cheers”-type relationship over the course of their visits.

“Once I found out he was a veteran, I always try and chat with him,” said Birdsall. “I knew he was still active, so I find that interesting.”

Vansickel has been deployed to Afghanistan since June and returned just recently to the United States. He is part of the Task Force Southwest unit, and surrendered his joys of riding the Trestle Trail and visiting the Nite Hawk to protect our country for the last 10 months. While serving all the way across the world in a dangerous land, Vansickel’s heart never left his beloved hangout in Slater.

“He sent me a Facebook message on Sept. 11, 2018, with a picture of him and the flag, and our bike jersey, and a picture of the flag flying,” said Birdsall. “He told me he was going to dedicate it to us. His commander was really hesitant to dedicate it to a bar and grill, but (Vansickel) told him that ‘they are good people and support the military, and support vets.’ It took two commanders to approve it.”

The newly framed flag, along with a certificate signed by the commanding general and sergeant major, and a unit patch (which happens to be a hawk, very similar to the Nite Hawk logo) now sits on the centerpiece of Birdsall’s mantle at the Nite Hawk for everyone to see. It’s a piece he couldn’t be more proud of.

“He made the whole case for us. It was impressive. It gave me goosebumps,” said Birdsall. “It was quite an honor.”

Shawn Birdsall has been the owner of the Nite Hawk since 2012. He was born and raised in Slater and his bar and grill has become a very popular spot for bicyclists along the High Trestle Trail and for area residents as well. The Nite Hawk is located at 105 Greene St., and is open daily beginning at 11 a.m.