American Legion hosted founder of Heroes' Café at their May meeting

Saturday, May 28, 2022

Gary Walderman, founder of the
Lynnwood Heroes' Café
By Doug Cerretti

The Starr Sutherland Jr Post 227 of The American Legion in Shoreline, WA had the honor to host Lt Col Gary Walderman United States Air Force and Founder and Director of Heroes' Café in Lynnwood at our general membership meeting May 3, 2022. 

Gary began his service in Commissioned Officer Training School resulting in his commission as a 2nd Lt December 21, 1979. He was first assigned as an Imagery Intelligence Officer responsible for photographic processing and interpretation. 

Gary continued as an intelligence officer gaining more responsibly as he rose through the ranks in supporting operations in the Cold War, Grenada invasion, Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, the Bosnia-Croatia War and other operations around the world. 

Gary retired from the USAF after 21 years as a Lt Col.

The Founding of Heroes' Café Lynnwood

In 2016, Veteran Paul Frederickson moved to Snohomish County from Wisconsin and told Gary of a veterans' organization called American Heroes' Café where veterans gathered for camaraderie and to share experiences. 

It was like a family get-together without all the drama. It didn’t matter which branch of the service you are in; whether you served in combat or not, where you served, or what era. 

On August 2, 2016 Gary and Paul decided that this could work here. The purpose of Heroes' Café is to foster a positive outreach, interaction, establish a healthy and safe environment, enhance veteran welfare, and increase camaraderie among veterans and to offer a helping hand to veterans in need. 

Welcome sign in Lynnwood 2019
Photo by Jerry Pickard

With these goals established the first Heroes' Café in Lynnwood was held January 31, 2017 with the help of his team of veterans, American Red Cross Support to Armed Forces, the City of Lynnwood and the Verdant Community Wellness Center. 

Gary mentioned that they would be happy if 15 to 20 people came. Remarkably, 125 veterans showed up - causing a scramble for more coffee and food. That level of attendance continued to grow to a high of 165 and has maintained itself for almost six plus years. During the pandemic numbers dropped but are now back to those lofty numbers.

Gary Walderman is presented with a certificate
from the American Legion
Gary established a standard format for Heroes' Café, Heroes' Café starts at 9:00am with coffee and pastries, followed by a veterans' program and lunch ending at 1pm. There is no cost to participate. Veterans, Family and Friends are welcome.

While many veterans' organizations have similar goals, Heroes' Café is unique, as there is nothing to join, you just show up.
Because of the success of Heroes' Café, the American Red Cross of North King County approached the Shoreline Veterans Association to start a Heroes' Café in Shoreline, which held their first gathering March 9, 2021.

Heroes' Café Lynnwood meets the fourth Tuesday of every month from 9am to 1pm at New Life Church, 6519 188th St SW, Lynnwood, WA 98037

Heroes' Café Shoreline meets the second Tuesday of every month from 9am to 1pm at Seattle Scottish Rite Center, 1207 N 152nd Street, Shoreline, WA 98133.


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