Wounded veterans find recipe for their futures at Dog Tag Bakery

WASHINGTON -- Welcome to Dog Tag Bakery, now open in Washington, D.C., after eight years of planning and prayer.

"I never gave up because I knew that this was a good work," founder Rick Curry said.

Curry had the "prayer" part covered. As for other, secular resources, this Jesuit priest partnered up with a real estate mogul named Connie Milstein.

"He is the Jesuit father, and I am the Jewish godmother," Milstein said at the bakery's opening ceremony.

Both wanted to help disabled veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan ease into the next chapter of their lives. They opened Dog Tag to make sure the vets would have marketable skills.

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Washington's Dog Tag Bakery helps give wounded Iraq and Afghanistan veterans business skills and self-confidence.
CBS News

"I was trained as a baker as a very young Jesuit, and I thought, 'I'm going to teach them how to bake,'" Curry recalls.

Here, the fellows, as they're called, learn not just how to bake but also how to run the business of a bakery. Veterans like retired Army Ranger Sedrick Banks, whose neck was broken in a mortar attack in Iraq.

"Dog Tag was my first major step back into the working mindset," Banks said. "Before the program, I didn't have confidence. I didn't feel like I had the ability. Now I'm confident in myself, you know?"

"The world thinks that disabled veterans can't be hired. And that's absolutely absurd," Curry said. "And we're here to prove them wrong."

Father Rick knows a little something about proving people wrong: He was born with just one arm.

"I believe that disability is a gift," Curry said. "It's very hard. It's very difficult. It can be difficult to accept but in the long run to accept your disability as a gift is positive."

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Retired Army Ranger Sedrick Banks, center, suffered a broken neck during a mortar attack in Iraq. He says before becoming a fellow at Dog Tag Bakery in Washington, D.C., "I didn't have confidence. I didn't feel like I had the ability."
CBS News

Sgt. Banks rediscovered his identify here, which is what makes the name of this place so fitting -- identity, after all, being the purpose of a dog tag. It's just one of the many things Father Rick has baked into his program.

"I want our fellows here to be happy," Curry said. "I want them to be successful, but I also want them to be happy."

The program to teach the vets the small business skills they'd need to run a bakery is done in partnership with Georgetown University.

CBS News senior producer Pat Milton produced this story.

  • Jim Axelrod

    Jim Axelrod is the senior national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for "CBS This Morning," the "CBS Evening News," "CBS Sunday Morning," and other CBS News broadcasts.