A West Virginia innkeeper who started letting military families stay free for Veterans Day in 2008 has recruited 400 inns across the United States and Canada as part of an initiative to offer free rooms this fall.

B&Bs for Vets is a way to thank active and retired military members for their service and to raise awareness of the bed-and-breakfast industry, said Kathleen Panek, who runs the Gillum House in Shinnston.

"People don't understand that a bed and breakfast is about the warm and fuzzy feeling the innkeeper gets and a good experience for the guests," she said.

Nearly 400 independently owned inns have signed on to offer free rooms Nov. 10, the night before Veterans Day. Some participants can spare just a single room, while The Colonial Inn in Smithville, N.J., is offering 20 of its 24.

A valid military or Veterans Affairs ID is required; go to

Many innkeepers are ex-military, including 20-year Army veteran Jess Beaty at the 5 Continents Bed and Breakfast in New Orleans. He offers discounts to veterans year-round.

Walt and Jean Hylander, who own Rosswood Plantation in Lorman, Miss., have taken Panek's idea a step further, providing free rooms in their inn to active service members year-round. Walt Hylander spent 29 years in the Army and earned a Silver Star for his service.