MOORESVILLE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) – In downtown Mooresville, there are too many war stories and too little time, whether it’s Veterans Day or any other day.
“And it slammed right into the gun. Blows up everything, blows all the ammo up,” we overheard a vet sharing with friends at Richard’s Coffee Shop.
It’s where heroes come for a cup of Joe, and volunteer Laura Roach has a front-row seat.
“It’s our nation’s history, and these guys lived it. So, it’s just really cool to get to know them,” Roach told Queen City News.
It’s THE place for vets to congregate. Many jam the inside, while others meet up with buddies outside.
“We’re known as the ‘Street People’ on Thursdays when the veterans get together,” said David Parkins, the Richard’s Coffee Shop board chair.
“Well, it’s the comradery,” he added. “I mean, when you’re in the military and then when you transition to civilian, the language changes, the people are different.”
Yes, they talk about their service, but they also talk about their grandkids.
“And he’s standing in front of an old WWII veteran,” a man proudly said of his grandson. “I just want to come over and thank you for your service. This kid’s eight years old; he’s been brought up right!”
Veterans find a lot of comfort in speaking to fellow servicemen and women. Many from across the globe have visited Richard’s.
It takes a village to support our vets.
“Today, you’re the village hero; tomorrow, you’ll be the village idiot!”
Parkins said, joking with his pals during a separate conversation.
Thursdays are an especially big day here because veterans get free coffee. But wait, there’s more.
“We’re just going to start the meeting,” we heard Gary Baker tell folks inside. “Welcome, guys, and thanks for being here; we greatly appreciate it.”
The weekly announcements meeting keeps them informed about upcoming events, services available, and more.
“So my name is Brooke Musick,” the veteran service officer said to the crowd. “We are Iredell County employees that help advocate for you guys.”
“Most of the stuff is veteran related; VA, and all the programs that are out there,” Baker explained.
Richard Warren opened the shop 27 years ago. It’s now a nonprofit run by a small group of volunteers. The space also includes the Welcome Home Veterans Military Museum.
“We enjoy the company of veterans from all over the world, believe it or not,” Parkins noted.
At their weekly meeting, something remarkable happened.
Parkins saluted a civilian who’s become part of the Richard’s Coffee Shop family.
“So, we call this the civilian volunteer award,” he said, calling up Laura Roach.
“Yeah… I’m more emotional now than when I got married, I think,” Roach replied as the vets laughed.
“We’re presenting this to you on behalf of all the time you have spent down here with us,” Parkins told her, giving her a special token of his appreciation. “Put that in your hand… and I get a hug.”
“I was pretty honored… I was shocked,” Roach said afterward.
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That moment of recognition was one of the quietest moments that day.
“You can hear it gets loud in here… because it’s all about talking to each other. For some people, it’s therapy,” says Baker.
Many coffee chats there aren’t always serious.
“We talk about the way people parallel park, the good-lookin’ women,” Parkins confessed.
Regardless of the topics, volunteers do their part to keep the place running and the conversations going.
“They don’t make people like that anymore; do you know what I mean,” Roach said.