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Hanukkah Cooking with an American Hero

Joey Fatone visits the home of one of America's finest, Iraq War veteran Bernie Teich. Bernie and his family have sacrificed greatly for our country, and Joey hears some of his incredible stories while also learning how to cook one of this family's favorite holiday meals.
Joey is in San Antonio, Texas with the Teich family. Sharon Teich's son, Bernie, was seriously injured while serving with the Armed Forces in Iraq. Sharon and her husband, Fred, gave up their life in Rhode Island to move to Texas to help with their son's recovery. With three families under one roof, it can get a little hectic at times, but one thing remains constant: Sharon continues to cook up hearty meals that heal, and she does it with love.

Sharon and Bernie welcome Joey into their kitchen to show them food from their Jewish heritage. They're making a traditional Hanukkah meal together. For Bernie, especially, his mom's food symbolizes her love and care.

"When I was in the hospital, the food was pretty bad, and my mother would cook for me every day," he says.

Although it was a lot of work making three meals a day for her son, Sharon said it was healing for her, too.

"It kept my mind off of what he was going through," she says.

Bernie served in the U.S. Army between 1996 and 2009. During his second tour of duty as a staff sergeant, Bernie's life was forever changed when a large IED exploded under his vehicle, nearly taking his life. His mother commuted back and forth for a few years from Rhode Island and finally moved out to San Antonio to be with her son. She loves to cook and taught cooking classes for eight years.

First up on the menu is beef brisket. Although beef brisket is common in Texas, this isn't the usual barbecue brisket. Instead, Sharon is making a traditional Eastern European brisket common in Jewish cooking. The sauce includes fresh herbs from family's garden.

Bernie is really excited about this meal, something he only gets about once a year. While talking with Joey, Bernie explains how much his mom's support meant during his recovery.

"She was always taking time off, and she never complained about it," he says. "Sometimes I would just have a bad week. I would just feel like the whole world was coming down on me, and she was there for me. She was always there for me."

He remembers the fateful day that brought this family closer together -- February 28, 2007.

"We thought we saw an IED. It turns out it was a fake IED to get us to go to a certain spot on the road," says Bernie. "We stopped and there was an IED under the cement. It blew up underneath my Bradley."

Part of the vehicle collapsed and fell on Bernie's lower half, which resulted in him losing one leg and the other being severely injured.

As difficult as it has been, Sharon says the accident changed Bernie for the better.

"He was a great kid, but he's a wonderful man now. He has a great perspective on life. He thinks the world of his kids and his family," she says.

Next up, the family gets ready to make apple pie. The recipe comes from Sharon's grandmother. She remembers making it on the farm in Wisconsin, where her family had their own apple orchard. Now, she's able to pass on these recipes to another generation.

Sharon has a secret ingredient for her fruit pies: tapioca. She says it binds the fruit and keeps it from being runny. Next, Sharon and her granddaughter make an easy applesauce that takes no time to make and tastes delicious.

Sharon says food is one way her family celebrates being together.

"We're a Jewish household. We eat. We eat!" she says.

Last but not least, the Teiches get working on another traditional Hanukkah dish: potato latkes. These traditional recipes represent more than just food for the family.

"We like being together. We like sitting down at the table and eating," says Sharon. "It keeps us together."

Even though they've been through a lot, Sharon says her family is lucky.

"I always remember that we are the lucky ones," says Sharon. "There's so many families that aren't as lucky as us, that don't have each other."

As a way to give back, the Teiches give to Wish for Our Heros, a foundation Bernie's friend started. The foundation helps soldiers, both those who have returned and are still serving.

Then it's time for a taste test. Joey can't wait to sink his teeth into this traditional Hanukkah meal. He gets right in there, picking up a latke with his fingers. He loves the crunch on the outside and the flavors of onion. Sharon's husband, Fred, suggests putting Sharon's homemade applesauce on the latkes, and Joey approves.

Next up, the brisket.

"Wow. I really like that because when you marinate in the bag, it has all these flavors," says Joey.

And for dessert, the apple pie. Joey is excited to try this family recipe.

"Wow. That is awesome. The cinnamon, the brown sugar," he says.

Joey thanks the Teiches for this amazing meal and for sharing their stories of courage and service.

You can read more of Bernie's story at ESPNAustin.com.

To give back to other veterans or learn more about Wish for our Heroes, visit WishForOurHeros.com.
Segment 1
Slow-Cooked Beef Brisket
Slow-Cooked Beef Brisket
This slow-cooked, tender dish is prepared with a tangy sauce and fresh herbs.
See Recipe
Segment 2
Hannukah Apple Pie
Hannukah Apple Pie
This special apple pie recipe has been passed down in the Teich family for generations.
See Recipe
Segment 3
Hanukkah Applesauce
Hanukkah Applesauce
An easy recipe for homemade applesauce that goes well with latkes.
See Recipe
Segment 4
Hanukkah Latkes
Hanukkah Latkes
These mouth-watering, crispy potato cakes are a classic side dish for this festive Jewish meal.
See Recipe
Photo Gallery
Photos: Hanukkah with a Hero
Go behind the scenes as Joey Fatone meets a veteran with an inspiring story.
See Photo Gallery

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