Troop Cafe offers new start for Milwaukee veterans

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by Marshanna Hester

MILWAUKEE-- Walkng into the Troop Cafe on Milwaukee's West side, you'll feel and see the spirit of patriotism.

"I was in the navy for 10 years," said Rick Kruchten.

Just like the name implies, your meal is the mission for the troops behind the counter.

It's an opportunity for them to find a place in the community after losing their way, following their service and sacrfice to our country.

"I always get a little," continued Kruchten. "I always get a little emotional because I did what I did because I wanted to serve. I was always about something more than just me. The flag is something special to me. The uniform was always special to me."

Kruchten now adds Troop Cafe to that special list.

It's a non-profit, social enterprise for the Center for Veterans Issues and serves as a training program for vets.

They learn everything about the food industry, from safety to prep, and how to run the front of the house.

After six months, the veterans graduate. Then, general manager and executive chef Greg Bautista helps find them full-time work in the community.

"Most of the veterans, they come here, they're looking for a career path," said Chef Greg, as he's called. "Most of them just want that career path in food service."

Kruchten knows the program works.

He is one of six from the first class and was hired by Chef Greg as the lead trainer and supervisor.

"I really like the things he did and the things he brought to it," said Kruchten. "His personality and experience."

Troop Cafe recently celebrated its first anniversary.

Now, Chef Greg and his team are traning a second class of four veterans. But in order to teach more, the cafe needs your help.

"When you come into troop cafe, all the money stays right here to support our program," Chef Greg said.

The public can enjoy breakfast and lunch, choosing from a number of items inspired by the military.

Catering is also available and soon, the cafe will debut a summer menu.

"Such as a grilled marinated chicken breast and italian sausage, a Sprecher root beer bratwurst," continued Chef Greg.

Troop Cafe is located at 35th and Wisconsin. Its hours are Monday through Friday from 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Veterans interested in the program can stop by the cafe or visit the Center for Veterans Issues.

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