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The lady, Susan, I will never forget during my C-Span interview said, " Were people who knew you surprised that you became an activist"?  My answer was a bit of history but not the extent I will give you here.

One of my first memories was my Mother working at the City Cafe dressed in her white uniform holding a pitcher of tea be bopping to A Buddy Holly song on the jukebox.   She was the head waitress before working as a secretary for Avon Products.  She waited on vet and vet families  from WWII, and most recently Korean vets, who frequented the Cafe in the small Ga. town.  The City Cafe was our way of eating out back then as Mother worked her
noon shift.  We were at the cafe every Saturday and sometimes during the week if my grandparents took us to grab a bite.  
Even after the Canteen closed I still remember men and women in uniform at the City Cafe.  
At times the canteen served as a place to get a cup of tea for a sad family who had
just come back from Arlington and sometimes it was full of life.  The true way of life if you own a restaurant during war time called The Canteen.  To those families it was not so jovial as returning home meant wreaths and different types of bugle music.

The picture above was UVA's tribute to a hometown hero who died in Iraq and his buddies. They were all killed in Iraq.  We had these wreathes placed on Mike Hardegree's grave in rememberance of his ultimate sacrifice.  We placed three wreaths that day.

I would imagine the Canteen was something like this the way I heard my parents describe it after the families and soldiers met up outside the depot.

Daddy had three little girls and a WWII vet himself and would take us up to the City Cafe for hamgurgers and cokes to be with Mama.   I remember the talk that before I was a twinkle in my Daddy's eye, Mother and my Aunt had a restaurant called, "The Canteen".   The Canteen was a food fantasy for soldiers getting on the train at the Train Depot or returning home.  I can identify with Fried Green Tomatoes, the movie because of this.  My Mom and Aunt served up home cooked meals and since there was no McDonalds or DQ at the time, the restaurant the soldiers and families came across was The Canteen.
This was a fairly profitable business venture but I was told to get a cup of joe or meal if you had no money, no problem for returning or departing soldiers.
How different now because so many wealthy do not believe in leaning forward with the sacrafice of war bonds as they once did or even paying their fair share of taxes.  
WAR Bonds

Another relative used to tell the story of how she came in from New York and waited at the Canteen for her love to return from the war while Mama and Aunt Julia were serving coffee and hot meals to the WWII veterans.  Helen, a beautiful brunette married Mother's first cousin after returning home from  Germany.  He later became a doctor and surgeon under the GI Bill which payed for most of his education and she became his nurse in the early practice years.  My uncle was with the 101st and was shot down over Germany.

  I surely wished someone could have afforded a camera back in those days.  This is history.  I would loved to see the inside of that restaurant.  After 1948 Mother started working for the City Restaurant as the Canteen closed and the war was well over.
and my Aunt moved to Pensacola.

It is a good memory to think how Mother was always taking the orders and filling the cups and glasses to the brim and putting slugs in the jukebox when we were at the cafe.  
Here is a pic of he Train Depot back then

jump below the yellow squiggly

I was brought up around music, doctors, politicians, and veterans.  Why would any folks who knew me be  surprised  that my heart would lean to the side of Honoring those who served.   It was certainly a way of life for me.  

The little town where the Depot and Town fed many a soldier.

Eternal Flame - Salute to our Veterans
The Eternal Flame is located in front of the Douglas County Courthouse in the Court of Honor. It exists to honor the Veterans of Douglas County who gave the Supreme Sacrifice in defense of our Country, and its inscription states that it is "dedicated to the Glory of God and to the Veterans of all Wars."

The Eternal Flame is a natural gas flame that is kept lit by an automatic ignitor. It is lit 24 hours per day, 365 days a year, and is known as the "Flame of Freedom."

At the base of the Eternal Flame are bronze plaques that list the names of Douglas County citizens who gave their lives in the defense of freedom.

Names of Douglas County Citizens Who Made the Ultimate Sacrifice for Freedom

World War I
Alton Kennedy Brittain
Frank Parks Dorris
Theodore William Farmer
James Franklin Martin

World War II
Dennis Aderhold '42
Dennis Barfield '40
Donald Barrett
Gerald Bullock
Oliver Brown
Henley Camp
Francis Collins
Quinton Collins
Ralph Daniell
Edward O. Ergle '39
Arnold Evans
Alton Feltman
William Fowler
Velvin Holland '39
Leonard Hudson '42
Sam S. Johnston
James E. Lee
Pat McGuirk
Ralph Morris
William Morris
Milliard Price
Isaac Rainwater '42
Frank Tyson

James D. Bishop
Robert A. Marks
Thomas L. Parker
Herbert L. Roberts
Charlie V. Smith
Wesley F. Smith
Monroe B. Willoughby

Gene Thomas Bailey
Herbert Eugene Belcher
Leon G. Holton
Robert Gerald Hunter '59
Brian Edward Jay '69
Melvin Johnson
Thurlo McClure '57
Raymond Simpson
Robert Paul Tidwell '64
David Beavers Wood '65
Nathan Bedford Simmons
Johnny Delbert Swann

Operation Iraqi Freedom
Sgt. Thomas Strickland


There were many more who died and sacrificed from my hometown but the names have not been erected or engraved.  The Afghanistan and Iraq war has claimed quite a few.  All of my friends that served in Vietnam have either passed or on a downward spiral.  Few WWII vets are left and all the veterans who sacraficed all is honored this day from this little hometown to all over America.  VP Joe Biden said

not all losses are equal
and not all sacrafice is as well.  I have been with some who have gone to Vietnam on this 50th anniversary across America but especially in this hometown to watch them suffer from the trauma of war.  I have seen up close and personal the sacrafice of personal loss of quality of life due to service connection.  I am so proud of President Obama marking this anniversary at the Wall in DC.

I am proud that my Mother re opened another restaurant called THE TIGERS DEN in the late sixties and kept it open until 1974.  Another War..More Food.  The returning veterans from Vietnam hung out at a place that would throw you right into a scene from Happy Days.  My sister and about 10 of us were curb hops.  No We did not have roller skates but we served up Papa Burger...Mama Burgers and Pizza to the sounds of
The Beatles, John Lennon and Creedence Clearwater Revival.  We never closed , it seemed like.  The hours were 9AM to Midnight Mon thru Sat.  Sundays were open after 2PM.

I worked there in between working in Atlanta for NCO/PO Employment for returning vets looking for work.  The home office was in Norfolk, Va.   I think I was raised on rock and roll and men and women in uniform. My Mother was into food and entertainment for the troops and I never even realized it until I was about 35.  It was a way of life.

From the lead singer of the Glenn Miller band  who lived and died in this little town and his boss's music serenading over some burgers and fries to the sounds of Creedence rocking at the Tigers Den  in the late  60's, and early 70's, my family actually served veterans.  Literally.  

Vietnam and the Tigers Den music

So is it any wonder I find passion and a need to serve our veterans anyway I can.
I know Mama was feeding and talking with Military families while I was in the womb.
Have a safe Memorial Day.  Never Forget.

Originally posted to Vetwife on Mon May 28, 2012 at 07:59 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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