United Family recognizes veterans group that has gathered for coffee since 2005

Published: Nov. 11, 2022 at 4:01 PM CST
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - One of the United Family’s proud traditions is handing off service pins for team members to place on their name tags. Friday morning at the Market Street on 50th & Indiana, the company took it one step further, awarding the same pins to a group of retired veterans who have shown up for coffee, mostly every day, for the last 17 years.

“Normally, our veterans come here every morning to drink their coffee and enjoy the day. We’ve just had this group here with us for as long as I can remember, I’ve been here since 2006, and these guys have been showing up ever since,” said Joe Hernandez, assistant store director.

One of the members, U.S. Navy veteran John Wolf, who served in the Vietnam War, worked for Veterans Affairs long after the war. While he and another member were nearing retirement in 2005, they found their way to the back table at Market Street’s coffee concourse more and more often.

“We know more about each other than we know about some of the members of our family, because we were here every day,” Wolf said.

“We punch at each other and laugh and carry on, but when we need to get serious, we can get serious and we can raise each other up!,” said Vietnam veteran Mike Bernard, who fought as a Marine from 1966-73. The group calls him the reverend.

“We just always have this camaraderie with the veterans,” said fellow Marine Britt Gideon, who served from 1966-69. He’s also a Purple Heart recipient.

The group also welcomed a U.S. Army veteran who fought in the Korean Conflict. Other veterans who previously graced that same table fought in World War II. Although most have passed on, their legacy is carried on through a magazine clip framed above their table.

“Sadly, I would be willing to wager that there’s not any of those that are still living today,” Wolf says.

During Friday’s unofficial pinning ceremony, Danny Cook, who was a U.S. Air Force staff sergeant at Lubbock’s Reese Air Force Base read off the names of group members who have passed since 2005. Names include: “Joe, Vince, Ed, Dallas, Jack, Virgil, Norman, Keith, Pappy, Randy, Jim, and James.”

“It’s important that we were that we remember those people. It’s of those things that keeps us together,” Cook said.

Retired U.S. Marine Marion Barnett, who served in Vietnam 1969-70, encourages Lubbock residents to pull up a chair and join the conversation.

“United provides free coffee on Mondays,” he said. “Ya’ll come join us!”