WASHINGTON -- Soldiers at remote outposts in Afghanistan, and those around the globe from Korea to Germany to installations across the United States are preparing to celebrate Thanksgiving in traditional ways.
Servicemembers at more than 200 locations in Afghanistan will receive turkey and trimmings from the Defense Logistics Agency's Troop Support personnel. DLA has shipped more than 60,000 pounds of beef, 20,000 pounds of ham, 45,000 pounds of turkey, 28,000 sweet potatoes and 4,800 pies to servicemembers there.
Meanwhile, food inspectors from the U.S. Army Public Health Command are busy ensuring that turkey and all the other fixings at commissaries worldwide meet the highest food safety standards. Installations throughout the Army are planning their own Thanksgiving events, some of which have already taken place.
At Fort Bragg, N.C., all 15 dining facilities are preparing for a lot of hungry Soldiers and their families this Thanksgiving. "This year will be a major difference because we will have almost all of the six brigades of the 82nd Airborne Division and the XVIII Airborne Corps home," said Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jasper Lee, XVIII Airborne Corps food service advisor. "This will be the first time we've had this many Soldiers back home in about six years."
Not only will Fort Bragg cooks be able to provide home-cooked meals to fellow Soldiers and their families, but they will also compete against each other to see which dining facility is the finest during the Thanksgiving holiday meal "Best Dining Facility Competition." Judging will be based on preparation, sanitation, decorations and displays.
"Each dining facility will pick a theme and create decorations and displays based off of that theme," said Sgt. 1st Class Grant Beyers, 82nd Combat Aviation Brigade's dining facility manager. "It's a lot of preparing and work to do, not only on decorations, but most importantly the food."
"It's a great opportunity to provide this kind of meal for Soldiers that do stay home for the holidays and give them a kind of place to confide so they do not feel alone," said Spc. Matthew Tisch, a food service specialist for Headquarters Support Company, 122nd Aviation Support Battalion, 82nd CAB.
At Fort Rucker, Ala., the dining facility is providing "a special meal to those Soldiers who are unable to go home for the Thanksgiving holiday. Many of the Soldiers on Fort Rucker are in a training status and this is our way of giving our Soldiers a feeling of home away from home," said Sgt. Maj. Marvin A. Pinckney, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence G-3 sergeant major.
Pinckney said the regular price of $7 for a meal will be reduced to $5.95 for family members of E-4 Soldiers and below.
Also at Fort Rucker, the Holiday Food Program, along with the Fort Rucker Food Locker and the Angel Tree Program are helping families on the installation during the Thanksgiving and holiday season. Thus far, 198 needy Soldiers and their families and Army civilians have been chosen to receive food baskets, according to Command Sgt. Maj. Buford E. Noland, garrison command sergeant major.
"We often hear about the needs around the world, and those needs are critical, but this is our opportunity during the holidays to help our own right here on the installation," Noland said.
At Yongsan Garrison, South Korea the Eighth Army commanding general released a first-ever video message to the Korean people in honor of Chuseok, Korea's annual harvest festival.
Surrounded by South Korean and American troops in uniform and Koreans in traditional dress, Eighth Army Commanding General Lt. Gen. John D. Johnson and his wife Cheryl talked about the importance of the holiday in South Korea.
"Chuseok is a time when our Korean friends and partners connect with their roots," said Johnson. Chuseok marks the end of the fall harvest season.
"Traditionally a celebration of the harvest, like Thanksgiving in the U.S., Korean people travel back to their hometowns to celebrate with their families and to honor their ancestors," Cheryl added to her husband's remarks.
Also at Yongsan Garrison, Gen. James D. Thurman, commander of United Nations Command, Combined Forces Command, and U.S. Forces Korea, and his wife Dee read children's books to Soldiers' kids as part of a pre-Thanksgiving event Nov. 10, which included a turkey meal with all the trimmings.
"We have some foremost duties, and one of them is to serve our families and serve them well," Thurman said. "I think today's Thanksgiving story time demonstrated the caring nature that we have for the servicemembers and their families. Our family and their children are so important and to bring everyone in gives a chance for a fellowship. I just hope you have a happy Thanksgiving with your family and take the deserved time to spend with your children."
Thanksgiving and the holiday season can be a particularly difficult time for some Soldiers and their famlies. Suicides in the Army are still high and many Soldiers returning from deployment or transitioning out of the Army are having difficulties adjusting.
"Be mindful that this is a particularly stressful time of the year," said Maj. Gen. James C. McConville, commander, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). "Be aware of the stress points and know when to take a break or to ask for help if you need it before letting situations get out of control. We have access to chaplains, counselors, and a whole host of community services that are here to support you when needed. Asking for help is a sign of strength."