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"Coffee that will blow you away."
That claim accompanies a skull and thunderbolt logo on Lock-n-Load Java's Web page, touting the online business's two passions: top-notch coffee and providing it and donations to the nation's military men and women who put their lives on the line.
"We started working on this company just over a year ago and formally launched the website in April," said Carl Churchill, a lieutenant colonel who served nine years on active duty and 12 years in the Army Reserves before retiring to Cottonwood Heights with his wife, Lori Churchill.
"In some of my deployments, you really look forward to that cup of coffee," said Churchill who turned 50 this month. "The sun comes up and you know you've survived another night."
The company's Internet site is purposefully edgy. One frame reads "Veteran owned coffee for people who drop in unannounced" next to a photograph of a plane dropping bombs in mid-air.
"A lot of people are so disconnected from the reality of the military," Churchill said.
His young company markets micro-roasted blends made from coffee beans purchased from small sustainable farms where workers are paid a fair wage, Churchill said.
While the fledgeling business is still getting established, grateful responses to donations already have poured in.
"The coffee is great … my favorite is Charlie Don't Surf. It is mild, not too strong and very flavorful," wrote Sgt. 1st Class Michael Sandoval in an email. "The rest of the guys love them all! We are trying to pace ourselves with it so as to make it last a little longer."
Sandoval thanked Churchill for the "wake-up juice" and for supporting his platoon "way over here in Afghanistan."
Lock-n-Load Java aims to benefit the troops in two ways: Customers can order coffee and have it shipped directly to soldiers, or customers can purchase the products for themselves and the company will donate $1 from each order to one of its approved military charities.
Churchill uses Charity Navigator's rating criteria to select charities and said he looks for groups that focus their support on wounded warriors and families of those who lost their lives.
Darriel Swatts, a soldier with the National Guard's 40th Combat Aviation Brigade stationed in Iraq, recently wrote Churchill that his brews had "become the morning favorite."
"We are all looking forward to seeing Iraq in our rear-view mirror and our families ahead of us," Swatts said, adding that he hopes to make their last three packs of coffee "last us until the end."
On July 12, 2010, Staff Sgt. Kyle Malin lost both of his legs when he stepped on a land mine in Afghanistan's Arghandab Valley.
"That was his fourth tour," Minnesota resident Deb Malin said of her 28-year-old son. "He was only 35 days into it."
Kyle Malin is now rehabilitating at Fort Sam Houston's Center for the Intrepid with his wife, Alicia, and their two young sons.
"Carl and I are Facebook buddies," Deb Malin said of the friendship that sprouted between her family and the Utah-based java vendor. She had posted a photo of her son, sitting in a wheelchair wearing a shirt that said "wounded warrior, some assembly required."
Churchill saw it and sent some of his goods to the Malin family.
The feisty Lock-n-Load logo grew out of a Post-it Note sketch by Churchill that was polished a bit by his Web developer. "We've had guys say, 'First of all, we love the coffee,'" Churchill said, "and second, they'd like to tattoo our logo on their arm."
Charities that Lock-n-Load Java supports:
Special Operations Warrior Foundation, Semper Fi Fund, Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, TAPS (Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors), Our Military Kids, National Military Family Association and Homes for Our Troops.
By the numbers:
Lock-n-Load Java now ships to 41 states and mailed out 147 pounds of coffee last week. So far, the company shipped 455 pounds of donated coffee to soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, and to a wounded Marine recovering stateside.
Dollars donated • $1,175 ($1 per order)
Flavors • Smooth Operator, Double Tap, Double Barrel Black, Charlie Don't Surf, the decaffeinated Sniper's Choice and Armory Select Vanilla Nut, Southern Pecan and Hazelnut Cream
Price • For whole bean or drip grind: $10.50 to $11.50 per 12 oz.