South Bay

Veterans Support Group Finds New Home After Milpitas Restaurant Conflict

Another Milpitas restaurant opened its doors to Veterans Helping Veterans after a manager told the group it could no longer use a room at the Black Bear Diner.

NBC Universal, Inc.

A group of Vietnam veterans now have a new home at a South Bay restaurant for their bi-weekly meetings.

The veterans - who informally call their group "Veterans Helping Veterans" - previously met in a Black Bear Diner Banquet Room in Milpitas until last month. That's when a a new manager told them they couldn't use that room anymore.

The decision came as a shock to the group, who had been meeting twice a month for about a decade. The veterans would have breakfast or lunch, while talking each other through the highs and lows of their experiences. Black Bear Diner also served as a place for them to help each other.

For example, one of its members, Hayward Cook, served as a navigator on a B-57 Bomber. But today he assists other veterans in navigating the financial and medical systems they have to rely on.

Mike Gamboa, the owner of Omega Restaurant in Milpitas, saw NBC Bay Area's initial report about the veterans and decided to open his doors for their meetings. The group held its inaugural gathering at Gamboa's restaurant on Tuesday.

Joe Sigala, one of the members, said the group was happy in their new home.

Veterans Helping Veterans said the corporate office of Black Bear Diner apologized and told the group they were still welcome at the restaurant. But at their meal Tuesday, the veterans voted to stay at Omega.

Joining the meeting was the group's old waitress from Black Bear Diner, Fanny Lopez. She told us she'll miss her friends, who pitched in to buy her a stroller when she was pregnant.

It was a celebration, a reunion, and a new beginning for the group. Veterans at their new meeting place continued to tell war stories and leaned on each other when the memories were too much to handle.

This is a healing process for us," veteran Philip Andrade said. "What I get out of this group is therapy."

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