Friends, vets support each other over coffee

Veterans Day is Nov. 11

Only on ABC-7: Friends, vets support...

EL PASO, Texas - On Nov. 11, our nation honors those who've served in the armed forces.

On this Veterans Day, ABC-7 got a glimpse of the morning tradition for many borderland vets who enjoy each other's company over a cup of discounted coffee at area McDonald's restaurants.

The hustle and bustle of the morning subsides in the corner of the McDonald's at Gateway East and Hawkins Boulevards in East El Paso.

"Oh, I've been coming here for maybe six, seven years," George Ortega said. Ortega is one of more than a dozen men who passes his mornings with the so-called "coffee club." The group has been frequenting the McDonald's for so long, a framed 8"x10" group picture is hanging on the wall near their regular spot in the restaurant.

"Normally, I spend most of my Fridays here with these guys," He told ABC-7.

Like all "these guys" -- who range in age from their late 60s to their early 90s -- Ortega graduated from Bowie High School. He was a part of the class of 1969.

"It's just like a family. You know, Bowie exes, we stick together all the time," Ortega said.

Many members of the Bowie coffee club served in the armed forces, he said, adding, "There's some, about four or five, that went to Vietnam."

Ortega enlisted after high school and served in Vietnam from 1969 to 1972. He said their time in the service will occasionally come up as they start their days together.

"Sometimes I talk about it and sometimes I don't, because it brings me flashbacks," Ortega said, telling ABC-7 that he suffers from depression. But with his fellow vets and Bowie Bears, Ortega finds comfort. "It feels great. It's like group therapy," he said. "Even if it's not about the war, it's about our problems that we have, and we try to help each other."

Local McDonald's owner Richard Castro told ABC-7 that there are coffee clubs in all the restaurants across the city and they're happy to provide an outlet for vets and seniors.

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