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For veterans, a monthly social at K&W Cafeteria offers more than just a cup of coffee.
“It is a chance to tell some good stories,” said Neal Dieterle, a veteran who served in the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard.
“And we actually understand them. We can’t get that anywhere else,” said Rick Lackey, a Navy veteran.
The Daughters of the American Revolution’s Thomas Hadley Chapter started the coffee for veterans social in November, and members are hoping it helps build a sense of community among veterans.
“The DAR has your six,” said Adele VanOverbeke, regent of the local chapter. The expression means a friend or partner is watching your back.
Bill Wooding was 21 when he joined the military in 1963. He said he kept getting Selective Service System letters about joining the military, and he decided to join the Navy after a lifelong love of the water. He shipped off about 25 days after enlisting and heading to boot camp at Great Lakes near Chicago.
“We were standing outside, and the company commander came out and said the president was just shot,” Wooding recalled. “I thought it was a test, but sure enough, it was real and they shut the base down right away.”
He spent the weekend in his civilian clothes watching new coverage in the lounge before getting issued his military garb, including a coat. While Lackey’s first day wasn’t as monumental, he recalled being told to bring only the basics since the military would issue more clothes, so he arrived at boot camp in a T-shirt.
As a high school graduate, Wooding headed to machinist school and served for six years.
“My father followed my military service,” he said. “He had a den with a big world map and he put lines where we were going.”
All Lackey’s uncles were killed in the military, but his own siblings included a handicapped son and a sister, so he knew he had to join the military, and as he already was a pilot, he ended up in flight school to become a fighter pilot.
“I was raised during a time that when it was your time, you had to go,” Lackey recalled.
“If you went for a job, one of the questions was your military status because you couldn’t get a job if you were waiting to go or going, so it was best to get it over with,” Wooding said.
Dieterle was in school for business administration before joining the Coast Guard in 1968. He served for a few years before returning to school and completing another 10 years in the Coast Guard. He moved to North Carolina and planned to join the Coast Guard Reserves but ended up doing 10 years in the Navy.
“In 1990, my C.O. asked if I had my sea-bags packed,” he recalled. “I said, ‘Yeah,’ and he said I was going to be activated. I told him I already got my National Defense Service Medal, and he said they’d put a star on it, but I only got as far as Norfolk.”
As a son and father of others who served in the Navy, Dieterle became an advocate for veterans and is active in several organizations.
“I think we need to honor veterans and help them in any way we can,” said Jeff Baker, general manager for K&W Cafeteria, which will host the social from 9:45 to 10:45 a.m. the second Friday of every month.