CHARLOTTE, NC — The opening of North Carolina's first Green Beans Coffee is to blame for one woman's debilitating anxiety attacks and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder-related flashbacks, claim friends and family.
Green Beans, an American coffee chain, is almost exclusively found on U.S. military installations and overseas bases. The first off-post franchise opened in Charlotte last month, to a mostly welcoming reception. For many veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars, however, Green Beans can be a grim reminder of hard times in unforgiving lands. One Charlotte veteran claims the new shop has forced her to add five minutes to her daily commute, just so she can avoid seeing it on her way to work.
Army Sergeant Christine Woodley spent most of 2011 at Bagram Air Field, an American base located near Afghanistan's capital, Kabul. According to her, conditions on the Army installation were “nightmarish,” and she recalls that so many stressful situations happened close to home, she didn't even have to leave the base to find them.
“When I arrived in Afghanistan, I was with a Civil Affairs Battalion, working to win the hearts and minds of Afghans all over Bagram," Woodley told reporters. "I could work anywhere from six-, seven-, even ten-hour days, printing out fliers, typing up counseling statements, or volunteering at the USO tent. I mostly had weekends off, but that didn't make the job easy.”
Woodley admits there are times when she can hardly function due to severe mental and psychological anguish she endured while deployed. Certain activities she used to enjoy, such as attending Toby Keith concerts, are now impossible because they remind her of the hell of war. She has even turned down free tickets to sporting events, on the chance that she might encounter professional cheerleaders, a common sight at USO events overseas.
But, according to Woodley, her most traumatic experience occurred inside the base's Green Beans Coffee shop, where she had hoped to enjoy a chocolate-vanilla blended smoothie while catching up with friends after a long work day.
“It was about 2100 and the whole place was just crowded wall-to-wall with other soldiers and their dates. It took about fifteen minutes just to place my order. That would have been bad enough, but then they added whipped cream to my drink—I specifically asked for 'no whip!'" Woodley paused, choking back emotion. "But the worst part, was that right after I had them remake the whole drink, and finally got the right order, the base starts getting mortared.”
In the ensuing rush to the exits, Woodley said she pulled her drink close to her chest, in order to protect it. The maneuver proved more harmful than helpful, when an “enormous” Air Force Senior Master Sergeant charged into her in a blind hysteria, crushing the frosty beverage and spilling it all over her uniform.
“It was terrifying. I had to sit in this tiny concrete bunker for 45 minutes, dripping smoothie and freezing, with two dozen other people. Half of them were crying, the other half were sipping away at their own safe, tasty drinks. I remember thinking, 'God, please don't let me die covered in smoothie goo.' And I just knew the Green Beans would be closed by the time the sirens stopped, so I wouldn't even be able to get a refund. It was the worst night of my life.”
Tom Hendrix, the manager of the Green Beans in Charlotte, wants to help Ms. Woodley heal.
"I heard about her story from some of my regulars. So I've offered her a free chocolate-vanilla blended smoothie — without whipped cream — good for her and a guest, no charge. She's given this country a lot, and we at Green Beans know that better than most companies."
At press time, Woodley had not yet redeemed the offer, stating that “it's just too soon. Maybe someday I'll make peace with what I've seen, but not today.”