It's been a long time in the making, with a lot of labor of love by many supporters to make it happen.
Today, a new GI coffee house called Under The Hood will open in Killeen. Killeen is home to Fort Hood, the largest US Army base in the US.
An article about the coffee house was published yesterday in the Killeen Daily Herald.
Under The Hood is managed by military spouse, Cindy Thomas, who is quoted in the article about the purpose of the cafe:
Thomas said the refuge, scheduled to open Saturday, will be a "free speaking zone" to discuss difficult issues such as the death of a friend or family member overseas, spouses and children coping with the absence of their loved ones during multiple deployments or perhaps a guilty conscience for fighting in a war that increasingly more soldiers no longer believe in.
"A lot of people want to hear the hero story. We don't want to hear that they're hurt because it hurts us," Thomas said. "I did that for a very long time. ... When I started searching for the truth, going online, looking at videos that no one wants to see, it becomes so much harder to live on a daily basis knowing that this is happening, and you're not doing anything about it."
"We have counseling services on post obviously, but when you're sitting around and hanging out, it's more relaxing and natural, and you feel more comfortable asking for help," Thomas said. "The concept of it is having that place they can come and not only support each other and help each other out, but maybe even advocate for each other."
Thomas said the house will have a kitchen with coffee and snacks, a break room, a pool table, a big-screen television, a jukebox and multiple couches and tables, all funded by donations.Though a peace activist herself, Thomas stressed the café is open to people of all ideologies.
Thomas said she is prepared for some public backlash, but her goal is to provide an inclusive environment for military community members to share their stories."They might not like what some of us or some of the soldiers have to say because everybody's experience is different. If you experienced ... reconstruction and helping the community, then great, that's absolutely great. But not every soldier did," she said. "There are others with difficult stories, and the difficult choices they had to make. They have a right to be heard. If you want to support them, hear them. Just let them have their voice."