SOCASTEE, SC (WBTW) – The Veterans Café in Socastee celebrated its 10th anniversary on Veterans Day, however, the business isn’t just centered around food- it’s helping veterans in many other ways.
When Lou Mascherino opened his restaurant, he never pictured what the Veterans Café is today.
“When we originally started, this wasn’t what we envisioned, it just seemed to happen that way,” Mascherino, owner of the Veterans Café said.
Hundreds of pieces of military memorabilia line the walls inside the restaurant; most of the items were donated. Mascherino says many people come to look at the mini military museum, however, some veterans say they stop by to spend quality time with people who can relate to them.
“It’s a gathering spot, we call it the hub, where we help people that need help through the veterans organizations, we tell them where to go, who to see; get them set up. We have different groups, different organizations that come here all the time and when somebody needs help, we steer them in their direction,” Mascherino said.
John Tranum, a Vietnam veteran and Chapter Commander for the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association Ch. 343, is a regular at the Veterans Café and refers to it as a place where he can meet people who understand what veterans go through.
Tranum served two tours in the Vietnam War, the first as a combat engineer attached to an infantry unit; the second as a military advisor. He describes that time as “hell.” Even though it’s been decades since the Vietnam War ended, Tranum’s experiences still follow him today.
“How do you explain to someone who has never suffered from PTSD what it’s like? Some of us hide it well until the sun goes down and we try to sleep at night,” Tranum said.
Luckily, he’s found solace in the Combat Veterans Motorcycle Association, a group he meets with weekly at the Veterans Café.
“We feel home here, people here understand us, people here walk up and say thank you for your service, welcome home, and they’re sincere, I feel home here, I feel at home,” Tranum said.
For Mascherino, that makes the past 10 years worth it.
The Veterans Café is located on Northgate Drive and is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Saturday from 7 a.m. to noon.