EAST TAWAS – Coffee and camaraderie come together at Veteran’s Coffee Hour.
Each week through April, veterans will meet at the Audie Johnson American Legion in East Tawas every 3rd Thursday from 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.
On January 20, the veterans met over steaming cups of coffee and donuts.
Vietnam veteran James Carl said he had never joined a legion, but had started showing up recently for coffee and because the meet allowed veterans to talk about the benefits.
Carl said he served in Vietnam, so he was eligible since the 1960s but never wanted to join a veterans organization.
“My wife passed away about five years ago,” he said. “So I decided to finally come here. This is a place to go.
Like all seniors, Carl had interesting stories to share.
“I was a canoe racer, I used to race the AuSable River Canoe Marathon,” he said. “Back in 90-92. I was a cross-country ski racer and some of my fellow competitors, I kind of asked them, “What do you do in the summer? Some of the comrades were canoe racers.
He took part in a few races, paddling the entire marathon with a Canadian he had as a friend.
Tom King is Chaplain of the Audie Johnson American Legion. He said coffee time is a good opportunity for veterans to come together and share war stories.
“(We meet) for camaraderie. We all have things in common,” he said. “They all go through the same kind of things, you know. Once they start talking, they’ll say, “Hey, I was there!” When were you there? He was there too!’”
King said the coffee hour is not just about providing camaraderie for veterans, but the veterans’ concentration presents a great opportunity to give veterans much-needed information.
For this coffee hour, they reviewed an announcement about the upcoming Veterans Benefits Fair scheduled for May 19 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It is to take place at Rushman Hall, 821 Newman Street in East Tawas.
This is a gathering intended to help veterans navigate the health care and veterans benefit systems to ensure they receive the medical and financial care to which they are entitled.
As they sat around the table in the back of the American Legion, veterans shared war stories. Agent Orange was a hot topic, as were engineering stories where some veterans talked about the structures they had built for war purposes.
Greg Hausler served in the Navy. He was talking about codes, spelling his name in the military alphabet. Someone asked him if he knew the semaphore.
“Oh, semaphore, I know that too! He stood up and showed the arm positions for different letters, shouting; “P! O! P! Oh!”
“Commonality,” Hausler said. “We can all identify with each other. No matter what branch of service you are in, you share experiences. Each branch will say “well, I was in the Air Force, but I know where you’re from” or “I was in the Navy”.