By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Hudson – This year began with a unique opportunity offered exclusively to local military veterans. The new venture was announced in the January edition of the Hudson Senior Center newsletter: “Vets Talk is a chance for only veterans to get together to swap stories, talk about what’s going on in the world or anything else that comes to mind over coffee. There’s no agenda or structure, just the opportunity to shoot the breeze in a way that only those who have served can do and understand.”
Vets Talk was organized by Mike Walling of Hudson, who served in the U.S. Coast Guard for six years as a commissioned officer and a senior petty officer.
“It’s not a club and I’m not a moderator,” he noted. “It’s a place for anyone who has a common background in the military. No matter what service you were in or when you served, you have this common bond.”
Fittingly, the idea came about last Veterans Day. Walling and his wife Mary were at Applebee’s, where the holiday is observed annually by serving a free meal to veterans.
“This was actually my wife’s idea,” he acknowledged. “We were sitting there and listening to veterans talking around us. I said to her, ‘It’s really too bad that this is the only chance they have to get together and talk.’”
His wife suggested that they propose the idea of Vets Talk to Janice Long, director of the Hudson Senior Center.
“Janice jumped on the idea,” Walling said. “It’s an ideal venue for this. It’s centrally located with plenty of parking. And we’re meeting in a room that’s very conducive to conversation.”
The group began small and continues growing with each meeting. Among those consistently participating so far are a veteran who served in Germany in the 1950s, a Marine from the Korean War, a Delta Force sniper from the Vietnam War, and a Navy veteran who served in peacetime. Discussions vary each time they meet.
“It’s not all war stories, there’s always some kidding around,” Walling said. “You can talk about anything here – your health, your spouse, your kids, your vacations, shoveling snow. You can be politically incorrect here because it’s safe. It’s been really casual and that’s what I wanted it to be.”
All participants so far have been men. Women veterans are welcomed, Welling noted.
“My mom was one of the first Navy WAVES officers,” he shared. “I have nothing but admiration for these women. They’re really tough and sharp – and a lot of fun. We’re really trying to get the women veterans in here. All the guys want to hear about what they did, particularly the nurses and the support corps. We really want them to be a part of this group.”
Welling is hopeful that the group will also include younger veterans.
“I’d love to see the younger veterans come in because the Massachusetts National Guard had multiple deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan,” he said. “They have a common bond with a lot of these people who have been through similar situations, maybe a generation or two earlier.”
Registration isn’t required to attend Vets Talk. The group’s only regulation is that all participants are veterans.
“If you haven’t served in the military, it’s hard to comprehend the camaraderie,” Welling explained. “Sometimes these veterans just need to tell something to someone else who has also been through it.”
The next meeting of Vets Talk is Thursday, March 12, at 9 a.m., at the Hudson Senior Center, 29 Church Street. Meetings will continue every other Thursday at the same time. Coffee and breakfast pastries are available.