KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Julie Childress is in her happy place in the kitchen at the University of Tennessee Conference Center. 

"Chicken Piccata is my favorite to eat, so it's my favorite to make," Childress says after thinking a moment when asked her favorite meal to cook. 

The retired Army veteran works as a chef at the conference center where she attended UT's culinary program under the GI Bill. 

Before that, she served as a mechanic and a paratrooper in the Army for 21 years. 

"It was a good experience for me," Childress said. 

She joined the Army when she was 19 because, as the youngest of six children, she said she was was in need of discipline. 

"One of the most important lessons I learned is that hard work and sacrifice do pay off," Julie wrote in her bio on the Covenant Health Marathon team website. "Don't complain, just do it." 

Her experience working on a team makes her successful in the kitchen and in her training for the Covenant Health Marathon. 

"Being with a team, it holds you accountable for your training. You have to do it or you let your team down," Childress said. 

Childress trains alongside nine other veterans chosen for the 2019 marathon team. She's running in memory of Sergeant First Class James D. Connell Jr., who was killed in Al Taqa, Iraq in 2007. 

RELATED: He's earned medals in the military and at the Covenant Health Knoxville Marathon. Now he is ready to race again.

"We don't want to ever forget those who gave their lives for our country," Childress said. 

She says her goal is to finish the half marathon in under three hours.