Written by Emma Weber
Three years ago during the end of summer, veteran Bill Morton, known on the road as “Rhino,” and some friends came into the local Searcy diner Chit, Chat and Chew for a cup of coffee. Owner Jacob Dixon, a fellow veteran, had been wanting to start a coffee call. Morton and his friends in the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association (CVMA) Chapter 7-8 provided the perfect starting point. Since then, the group has expanded and amassed friends from all branches of the military. Their common thread: a desire to create community.
At this table, every veteran is welcome. Ages ranging from 29-85 make an effort to come and connect with one another.
“We have lots of differences, but we put them aside at the table,” Morton said.
Morton said others are invited as well.
“This event is open to the public,” Morton said. “We want veterans to come in and make friends.”
The Commander of CVMA Chapter 7-8, Bill Blecher, known as “Oscar,” elaborated on the need for veterans to have a place to feel supported.
“Since leaving the service and moving to a civilian company, I haven’t felt the same feeling of family,” Blecher said.
Blecher and Morton create a family-like atmosphere by connecting their friends with professionals who can help. Frequent members at the table have many skills relating to suicide help and internal veterans aid. Morton and Blecher both mentioned that these services help many of the people at the table.
“We are just friends helping friends,” Blecher said.
Another member of the group, veteran Candice Wyant, has taken the steps to make a group just for women.
“There are a lot of us out there,” Wyant said. “Here, you have a family you can have coffee with. You think, ‘Hey, there is a place for me.’ And we are just doing life together.”
Wyant works specifically to make a space where female veterans can find their identity outside the service.
“When you get out of the service you lose yourself, and you want to be a part of things but it’s hard to communicate with others,” Wyant said. “So you end up staying home. But there is a lot more to us. We are strong and proud, and we want to build a community.”
Events like the coffee call at Chit Chat and Chew provide opportunities for all those who have served to have a central location to meet.