“Welcome home!”

Honor. Glory. The undeniable gratitude of our nation for our returning military. Celebrations varied prior to the 1950s, but “Welcome Home” was the enthusiastic cry. High spirits prevailed! Ticker-tape victory parades, marching bands, and speeches. Returning men and women were respected heroes.

 

A divided nation

Unfortunately, this did not hold true for those who fought in Vietnam. Men were drafted despite the divided nation. There were anti-war protests, slogans, and horrible distrust. The honor and glory of service was replaced by shameful silence. There was no compassion for those who returned physically and emotionally different. Instead, their service became a stigma.

 

A coffee shop to welcome home every veteran

The fighters of the Vietnam War returned to face scorn. In 1995, in downtown Mooresville, that changed! Richard Warren, a U.S. Army, Vietnam combat, Huey attack helicopter pilot, opened a coffee shop. He “Welcomed Home” every veteran that entered his shop. Soon the coffee shop transformed into a “Living” Military Museum. Pat’s Gourmet Coffee Shop, as it was originally named, was a gathering space for veterans, stories, and memories.

 

Richard’s dream fulfilled

In 2009, Richard died of complications from Agent Orange before he could fulfill his dream. He wanted to establish a nonprofit called “Welcome Home Veterans.” Richard’s friends and family would fulfill his dream! On July 4, 2009, Richard’s Coffee Shop was opened in downtown Mooresville. It is a coffee shop and living military museum dedicated to honoring America’s veterans, active-duty personnel, and emergency services personnel.

 

A place for connection, healing, and comradeship

There is an astounding array of artifacts and pictures. Yet, the most valuable aspect of Richard’s Coffee Shop is the space. It is the freedom for connection, healing, and comradeship. Everyone — veterans and civilians — are always welcomed by a smiling face! A cheerful greeting! A joke! A volunteer will show you around the museum with items dating back to the Revolutionary War. A veteran will have a chair and a story waiting for you. There is laughter, warmth, love, openness, and opinions!

 

 

 

Breakfast, lunch, music — but mostly an experience

Welcome Home Veterans Living Home Military Museum at Richard’s Coffee Shop is open Monday-Saturday from 8-1. The Living Museum is free to visit with donations greatly appreciated. Richard’s serves breakfast and lunch and has a diverse gift shop. Thursday mornings’ free coffee and Saturday mornings’ jam sessions are the time to see the shop shine! There are no words to describe that experience.

 

 

 

A tough break due to Covid, but the shop is open again

Covid-19 hit the Coffee Shop hard. Members struggled with the lack of connection. They missed the friendship and time together. Despite many attempts, the shop remained closed as health and safety was top priority. Finally, on Thursday, April 15th, the free coffee flowed, the room was filled with laughter, and everyone was once again “Welcomed Home!”

 

Richard’s mission accomplished

One man’s experience transformed into a mission. A mission fulfilled and continued by a dedicated unit. A hope that every veteran has a place to call home and feels accepted. Seemingly so simple, yet so meaningful. A heartfelt achievement accomplished through dedication and hard work. The museum is a timeless tribute to Richard, the military, and the United States of America.

 

For more information, visit https://www.welcomevets.com/.

 

 

 
 
 
 

Photos courtesy of Katie Stankiewicz

 

 

Katie Stankiewicz is the founder of Willow Equine and executive director of Soul to Soles Connection.

The Exchange Club of Mooresville / Lake Norman is a civic organization, who works to create a strong and united community. They have been serving the Lake Norman area for over 30 years, with a focus on Americanism, Community Service, Prevention of Child Abuse and Youth. If you or anyone you know have been looking for a way to connect and give back, join the club! 

Go to our website at https://mooresvillelknexchange.org/ for more information. Select “Join the Club” under the ‘Menu’ section for an member application. You can also email the club through the Contact Us’ menu selection. 

 

 

If you know of a non-profit organization that you would like featured …

Contact Margi Kyle, at mkyle@lknconnect.com.

 

 

 

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