Valley café honors military

Udder Culture dedicates wall to American armed forces

Posted: Friday, March 10, 2006

The Udder Culture, a sandwich and frozen yogurt café in the Mendenhall Mall, also serves a slice of life from soldiers' experiences in the Iraq War.

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A column of photos is dedicated to the January homecoming of Alaska Army National Guard troops, while other pictures show troops in the field helping Iraqi families. The serving counter is lined with insignia from the various branches of the armed forces, and a banner on the wall reads in large letters: "We support our troops."

Employees call it the "Wall of Honor."

"We just wanted to put some pictures up to show the community what our troops are doing," said café manager Matt Dubois, also an infantryman who recently served in Baghdad.

The shop started with three pictures several months ago and now has enough memorabilia to cover an entire wall. The photos of smiling faces and playful Iraqi children are a contrast to the violence shown on TV, Dubois said.

"I think the media doesn't show enough of the good stuff," he added.

Many soldiers are either Juneau-Douglas High School graduates or sons and daughters of Juneau residents. Besides Dubois, other troops pictured include Juneau residents Forest Ray, Josh Lewis, Shanie Wery and Josh and Bill Dean.

"I have mothers who come in and say, 'That's my son. That's my daughter,'" store co-owner Tommy Penrose said.

Times were hard while working 14- to 16-hour days in the heat and under stressful conditions, Dubois said. Support from home helped carry him through the conflict, he added. The Udder Culture staff sent him batches of brownies and cards while he was stationed in Iraq.

"I kept a picture (of the staff) in my locker and I looked at it every day," Dubois said.

Dubois was a café employee before he was deployed, and a handful of former employees of the establishment also served in the Middle East.

Penrose said he was happy to see his manager come back in one piece.

The wall is not limited to troops in Iraq; Penrose invites anyone in Juneau who has a loved one in the armed forces - overseas or stateside - to post photos and letters of support.

Dubois said those who served in the military have a connection to one another.

"That's what makes America great is the personal sacrifices of each individual soldier of the past, present and future to make it the best country on Earth," he said.

• Andrew Petty can be reached at andrew.petty@juneauempire.com.



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