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“Veterans’ Coffee House” gathers military men and women for the greater good

“I got sick and tired of saying to people ‘thank you for your service’ and I wanted to do something more,” said Halliday

WALLINGFORD, Conn. — Over bagels, coffee, and donuts there is a steady dialog just about every month at the Wallingford Senior Center. In a rear conference room, each month, a different veteran is front and center – sharing their war stories and military experiences as part of what is called the Veterans Coffee House.

Southington’s Mark Halliday began the Veterans Coffee House in 2017. 

“I got sick and tired of saying to people ‘thank you for your service’ and I wanted to do something more,” said Halliday. The Veterans Coffee House events have been going on ever since. 

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This Tuesday, just ahead of Veterans Day, former Army Medic Robert Lombardo took the podium. 

Lombardo, now 73, served in some of the Vietnam War’s bloodiest battles and shared his survival stories with the audience of about 40 -- most of them veterans. 

“It was real, not Hollywood,” said Lombardo, who is now an adjunct professor at Quinnipiac University and a long time X-Ray technician. 

Lombardo spoke eloquently of the firefights he was part of and the men he tended to during the heaviest fighting.

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“Experiencing that and almost dying, you have a greater sense of life and you appreciate it more,” said Lombardo 

Lombardo is reserved about his accolades but has been awarded five Purple Hearts and two Bronze Stars for his service in Vietnam. 

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More important to Lombardo is the message he wants to amplify, “the message is that veterans, through all services, and all the wars are great and dedicated people and just did their jobs and came home when they could.” Lombardo added, “going through what I have been through you will appreciate life more and all that it has to offer.”

Jimmy Altman is a reporter at FOX61 News. He can be reached at jaltman@fox61.com. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. 



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