O'Charley's restaurant thanks soldier Tech. Sgt. Matt Gann for service

photo Family and friends honor U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Matt Gann, stands next to two oversize signed cards Monday at O'Charley's restaurant near Hamilton Place. His nephew, Cole Browder, lower center, and his wife, Brittney Gann, right, were at his side.

At dinner Monday with more than a dozen of his family members and friends, Tech. Sgt. Matt Gann ordered a filet mignon - his favorite cut.

The Tennessee Air National Guard member and Chattanooga native has eaten steak on special occasions in the military, but the meat leaves something to be desired.

"It doesn't taste like real steak," he said.

Gann, 29, joined the Air Force in 2000 when he was 18, and he joined the National Guard in 2005. He was in Afghanistan earlier this year and returned home in October. To recognize Gann's service, the O'Charley's on Shallowford Village Drive honored him Monday.

Gann and his family had a free meal, and Gann received a prize pack that included a $50 gift card from the restaurant and a certificate for 11 Nashville Predators tickets, said Sarah Tanksley, who works for the public relations company representing O'Charley's. He also received posters that patrons signed over the past few days, thanking him for his service.

Gann, who still serves in the Guard, appreciated O'Charley's initiative.

"I thought it was pretty cool that they wanted to give back to people who served," Gann said.

His wife, Brittney, said the dinner and prizes were an honor. She's also glad he's home.

"That would probably be an understatement," she said.

O'Charley's regional marketing manager Rickey Bryant said that when the restaurant asked how to honor returning troops, it learned that "one of the first things soldiers want to do when they come home is have a meal with their family."

The National Guard nominated and selected the troops to be honored, Bryant said.

O'Charley's is holding several similar events this month in the Southeast that honor National Guard members and their families. Also, for every $25 gift card bought at a restaurant, O'Charley's will donate a $5 card to National Guard units across the country, Tanksley said.

Contact staff writer Naomi Jagoda at njagoda@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6476.