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Coffee and War

I have been reading the book Uncommon Grounds by Mark Pendergrast. This book is packed full of information as it follows coffee through the ages. I am currently reading about coffee in the era after WWII. There is a theme that seems to run through a lot of these pages and it is that coffee has played a major role in all the American wars. So, as it is Memorial Day here in the US, I thought I would share some of that info and ponder to consequences of coffee for our troops.

So first, let me redefine "major role." Coffee did not ever win a battle. No coffee bean jumped up and resolved the civil war. The role that it played was on the human level, with the individual. Revolutionary and Civil war soldiers would save their fire starting materials for coffee. It was their one refuge. Marching long days through freezing conditions, the only thing they had to look forward to was coffee. In the more modern wars, coffee remained the drink that helped get troops through their time. The caffeine kept them awake. The hot brew comforted them in the 1940's just as it did in the 1840's. Coffee was the drink that got the soldiers and sailors through their day to day lives.

When I worked at The Bucks, I worked with a group called Packages From Home ( We heard that our troops over seas had the worst coffee in the world. It was shipped to them in 5 gallon drums and tasted like burnt tires (but it was better than nothing). So we took it upon ourselves to support their effort. The store I worked at put a basket out and asked that people buy a bag of coffee to send to our troops. We wanted to give them some quality coffee to enjoy. Their joys were simple, hard candy and coffee. Everything else they asked for was for hygiene.

It has been a while, but if I remember correctly, we raised somewhere in the ball bark of 150 bags of coffee. We had some volunteers from PFH come by and we all stuffed care packages with a pound of coffee, some candy letters written by a local kindergarten class. I have never been on tour. I can scarcely imagine how hard it is. Receiving a package of good coffee you can share with your friends would really help. Think about all the times we say, "boy, it's been a hard day. I need another cup of coffee." Multiply that by 100 and add terrorist trying to kill you. A coffee break with friends would be a wonderful respite.

There have been men and woman who have served and died so we can have the freedom, the luxury of the lives we live. So when we sit down for our morning coffee lets take a moment to remember the men and women who looked down into their cup, seeing their reflection in the black brew, taking a deep breath of the aroma and found only a moment of comfort in hard times. Remember the men and woman who have fought to protect our freedom. Remember that freedom is never free.

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