Baking a Difference

2014-12-06-breakingbread.JPGThe men and women who risk their lives for our freedom deserve our unwavering support as they return to civilian life and begin their next chapter. Advocating for that belief has become a passion of mine, and for that reason, Father Rick Curry and I are proud to announce the grand opening of Dog Tag Bakery in Washington, D.C.

The transition from military to civilian life is not easy. My own father dealt with such challenges when he boarded a hospital plane to return to the United States in 1945. He told me about all the other veterans who rode back home with him in hammocks and on stretchers. I remember the day he showed me a dollar bill, which everyone on the plane had signed so they would always remember that trip and each other. When he passed away, my mother showed me his wallet that still contained the dollar bill. He had carried that dollar - and those memories - with him all those years.

It is because of my father, friends I lost in Vietnam, and those who continue to defend our freedom today that I am dedicated to our military and to helping empower and care for our military families.

After bonding over our love of baking a few years ago, Father Curry and I joined forces to create a program that draws on our personal and professional experiences of running successful businesses and nonprofit organizations, as well as serving the veterans community and persons with disabilities. Through Dog Tag Bakery, we hope to create a supportive environment so that the men and women who have given so much to their country can find success in a new and enriching chapter in their lives. We say that we're 'Baking a Difference' which really sums up what we strive for every day - to empower our returning vets and their families with an education in entrepreneurship.

But this is so much more than a bakery. Dog Tag is also a work-study program that supports veterans by providing them with a high-quality business education in partnership with Georgetown University's continuing education program. The proceeds from the bakery are reinvested in the education program so that more veterans can acquire the skills they need to build a successful civilian career.

The inaugural class of Dog Tag fellows was chosen in the spring of 2014. The class consisted of five men and five women, all with disabilities and either active duty or retired from serving with the Marines, Army and Navy. The class also included spouses and caregivers. This elite group of men and women embody a diverse range of ranks and decorations as well as expertise - from telecommunications to infantry and military police to ombudsman.

On November 19, seven members of the first fellowship class graduated with a certificate of Business Administration from Georgetown University's School of Continuing Studies. I couldn't be more proud. I can't wait to see what they accomplish as they put their skills to work and start pursuing their own entrepreneurial dreams. I also look forward to welcoming the second class of fellows in early 2015.

As we break bread on Saturday at our Georgetown store, we will welcome the community to taste free samples of our sweet and savory treats. But more importantly, we hope to inspire people to support our veterans however they can.