Editorial: Coffee therapy fosters healing for vets

  • Posted: Wednesday, April 9, 2014 6:35 a.m.

Leo Fahey, chaplain for Richard’s Coffee Shop and Living Military Museum in Mooresville, said there’s a mystery to the place and what happens there with veterans every Thursday morning.

And it all starts with a free cup of coffee.

With no plan or blueprint, no government money, just men and women sitting at tables talking over coffee, healing occurs. Some would call it therapy.

Veterans have walked into the coffee shop having never talked about their war experiences. Fahey has seen their demeanors change. They feel appreciated, honored and at home. They open up, because they’re talking to other veterans. After so many weeks, they often are able to let go of their wounds of war, whether visible or invisible, and proceed in helping others.

In his heart, Fahey believes Richard’s Coffee Shop is a beautiful, sacred place.

Organizers of the new Frontier Coffee Shoppe in Salisbury are hoping for the same kind of magic. Free coffee is offered to any military veteran (or active service member) from 9-11 a.m. Tuesdays in a section of Thelma’s Down Home Cooking restaurant at the West End Plaza. You might even find a doughnut or two.

The Frontier Coffee Shoppe honors veterans, gives them a place to meet and offers the opportunity to build friendships.

But it’s the “therapy” part organizers such as Tom Harrell are most interested in. On average, 22 veterans commit suicide each day — a number not lost on Harrell, who took note in late March when members of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America planted 1,892 American flags on the National Mall in Washington.

There was one flag for each veteran who already had taken his or her life in 2014 alone, the group said.

The annual suicide rate among veterans is estimated at 30 for every 100,000 in the population, compared to the civilian rate of 14 per 100,000. Analysis from records of 48 states showed the suicide rate for veterans increasing an average of 2.6 percent a year from 2005-2011.

The numbers are alarming. Consider this: Nearly one in five suicides nationally is a veteran, even though veterans make up only 10 percent of the population.

The Frontier Coffee Shoppe’s free coffee on Tuesday mornings might seem like a small gesture, but it also could become another sacred place paying big therapeutic dividends.

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