Marine cooks up plan to help fellow veterans

CRANSTON, R.I. (WPRI) — A proposed waffle house would be a long way from the new generation of front lines, but Marine veteran Bob Lancia hopes to serve returning warriors a side order of help at The Wholly Waffle restaurant.

Their work overseas in Iraq and Afghanistan put their lives in the enemy’s cross-hairs, and before Lancia was cracking eggs and sifting flour, he was a chaplain in the Marines and Navy. He shattered his shoulder right before he was deployed to Iraq, but he saw the impact of war during the civil war in Bosnia. And he witnessed front line-like tragedy while responding to the Swiss Air Flight 111 crash, that killed all 229 on board.

“Especially if they were children, it was difficult,” Lancia said. “We wanted to give them the reverence they deserved. We wanted to make sure they were honored. We wanted to make sure that we named and knew who they were.”

He remembers his generation of soldiers needing help to get their lives and careers going again when they returned home from service, and he’s convinced help just isn’t there yet for the new generation of veterans who started serving after the 9/11 attacks.

In this Monday, Sept. 8, 2014 photo, the Tribute in Light rises behind buildings adjacent to the World Trade Center in New York. The art installation consists of 88 searchlights aiming skyward in two columns, in memory of the former twin towers. Four World Trade Center is at left. Thirteen years after 9/11 forever changed the New York skyline, officials say developments at the World Trade Center are on track and on budget. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
The attacks on September 11, 2001 motivated thousands of Americans to enlist in the military.

“What about the younger vets?” he asks, referring to ones who enlisted after 9/11. “I don’t think we’ve really fully realized what we’re facing. I don’t think we’ve scratched the surface of what’s going to be needed, and I want to be part of that.”

The chaplain’s recipe is The Wholly Waffle, a restaurant that he says will focus on hiring veterans and training them to run their own businesses.

“The profits will go back into the community to change young lives,” he writes in a brochure.

So, it will be much more than a place to get breakfast and brunch.

“Mind, body, spirit,” he said. “Absolutely. It’s time. It’s sensitivity. It’s caring. It’s listening.”

Imagine a place to learn a career path, and get help dealing with the injuries that are not always visible.

“Because you’ve been through a unique experience in war and no one except another veteran is going to understand that experience,” Lancia explained.

He lined up a potential location in Cranston and is working on raising capital that will include grant money. He plans on giving his recipe a kick start on Veterans Day. You can find out more by clicking here.

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