Josh Schuchhardt compares his work as a helicopter mechanic to cooking.
They both involve working with your hands. You instantly make a difference and see the payoff.
But cooking has also become a form of healing for the staff sergeant who medically retired from the Army in 2010. He is coping with a traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder after his brigade in Kandahar was hit by a mortar attack in 2009. He has two brain surgeries under his belt and a headache that never goes away.
Between maintaining a 3.8 GPA at The Art Institute of Raleigh-Durham and working as an assistant general manager at the Aberdeen Moe's restaurant, it's sometimes tough to make it home to his own kitchen.
But when he surrounds the stove with his wife, Ashely, and their chatterbox 3-year-old, Benjamin, chopping fresh chives from their backyard garden and sampling chili spices couldn't be any sweeter.
Learning classical culinary techniques at school and recounting his own experiences as a wounded soldier have evolved into a business plan: A catering company aimed at helping veterans eat healthy.
"I want to make people happy," he says. "If I can do something I love for work, then why not?"
Agustin Gonzalez is careful to mark exact measurements before throwing ingredients into the chili pot. He is an Army captain but a chef at heart. He holds a deep love for garlic, appreciates Puerto Rican cooking influences, and will only create homemade pizzas with Don Pepino tomato sauce, which he gets shipped all the way from New Jersey.
And his burgers aren't bad, either. A family favorite, he stuffs the patties with gooey feta cheese.
His family has called Fort Bragg home since April. His wife, Melissa, claims he has every recipe down to a science, and she routinely follows him in the kitchen, wiping down the counters. Their 13-month-old son clings to his legs as he cracks open the sauces.
"I've never met an unhappy person who knows how to cook," Agustin says.
What do you do when you just PCSed, haven't yet received your boxes, and are expecting dinner guests?
Danielle Chandler found herself in that exact predicament when her family moved to Hanau, Germany, in 2004. Her husband had invited people over, and she only had one pot, a strainer, a few ladles and a frying pan to her name.
Thinking on her feet, Danielle boiled down an intricate chili recipe to a few steps. Today, she swears by it. She even recently won the Chapel Next Linden Oaks chili cook-off on Fort Bragg.
"I never even went back to the old recipe," she says. "I just use this cheap and easy one."
The recipe is a simple one that takes her and her daughters about 15 minutes to throw together. The secret is Famous Dave's steak and burger seasoning, which she calls a "pantry favorite."
She has lived for more than a year on Fort Bragg with her three daughters and her husband, who is a staff sergeant with 1-17th Cavalry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division.
Recipes that have been passed down, she says, keep family ties strong.
"Growing up, when you went to someone's house, when they fed you, that meant they loved you."
Kirk deViere knows his "Fire in the Hole" chili recipe by memory. When he's not serving the stew during football games and casual get-togethers, he's president of Internet marketing company 219 Group and owner of both Circa 1800 and Horne's Cafe restaurants downtown.
So when does he usually pull out the recipe?
"When it starts getting cold outside - makes you crave chili," deViere wrote.
He enlisted in the Army in 1989, served in two infantry company commands, and got out in 2000.