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Wounded Vets Regain Bit Of Camaraderie In Kitchen



HYDE PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Julio Gerena is in a wheelchair, his long career in the U.S. Navy and Army forever behind him. But the 52-year-old recaptured some of the old military camaraderie while peeling potatoes and chopping cilantro in a crowded kitchen.

Gerena was among the first 16 wounded veterans who served during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars to take part in a healthy cooking "boot camp" sponsored by the advocacy group Wounded Warrior Project. Former service members once consumed with patrols and sentry posts learned how to poach and saute at the Culinary Institute of America, the renowned cooking school on the Hudson River.

The veterans learned some kitchen tips, but seemed to enjoy even more the chance to spend four intense days with people who have faced similar hurdles.

"There are some things you can't really get into words, but the Wounded Warrior program is to me what being in uniform was before: the camaraderie, the trust," Gerena said after a long morning in the kitchen. "I met some of these people just a few days ago, but I share what they went through."

Photo Caption: Chef John DeShetler, left, speaks to members of the Wounded Warrior Project taking part in a culinary bootcamp at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)

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